NU-Q Explores How Smartphones are Reshaping Journalism

September 20, 2020

The smartphone has disrupted the news media by both expanding the reach of journalism and diminishing the relationship between the producer of the news and its consumer. Northwestern Qatar’s museum – the Media Majlis – is exploring the disruption and how journalism has responded in its latest exhibition, which is open to the public.

Breaking News? how the smartphone changed journalism examines how mobile technology connects personal and professional lives – enabling access to a world flooded with information and disinformation, including deep fakes, citizen journalism, and opinions misconstrued as fact. As a result, this device has reshaped the practice of journalism and recast the role of the audience as contributors and shapers of news.

The exhibition uses examples of media content that was captured and shared on a smartphone with repercussions worldwide – they include the killing for George Floyd, the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, and citizen reporting on the civil war in Syria.

“The Media Majlis at Northwestern Qatar, the only university museum in the country, provides context for the academic programs at the university,” said Marwan M. Kraidy, dean and CEO of Northwestern Qatar. “As one of the leading journalism schools in the world, this exhibition reinforces the connection between theory and practice and provides our faculty and students with additional tools and resources in their exploration of the news media. Drawing on our faculty expertise – and broadening our students’ experiences – this museum is another unique facet at Northwestern Qatar.”

Among the artifacts of mobile technology on display at the exhibition are the first cellular phone and the first mobile phone with a camera. Visitors can also participate in interactive surveys that track opinion on the impact of fake news, mobile technology usage, and the role of social media in influencing societal reform. They can also browse a data visualization report on the worldwide usage of social media and mobile technology, categorized by country. 

Accompanying its exhibitions, the Media Majlis organizes a series of programs. The sessions for this exhibition focus on making change – from smart speakers to media literacy. On October 13, Nic Newman, senior research associate at the Reuters Institute of the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford will discuss the challenges and opportunities that smart speakers like Alexa and Google Home bring to the news media. Sumaiya and Yusuf Omar, co-founders of Hashtag Out Story, will speak on October 20 and discuss how the role of social media is fundamentally changing journalism. And on November 10, Phil Rees, director of the investigative journalism directorate at Al Jazeera Media Network, will discuss the importance of taking control of your media literacy.

Also complementing the exhibition is a publication that delves deeper into the exhibition through a collection of contributions from journalists, broadcasters, critics, educators, and social researchers from around the world.

The Media Majlis is open to the public and accepting private bookings in September and October to support social distancing. Bookings can be made for up to 10 people through the museum’s website.