Sunday, April 25, 2010

'New Media' Challenges Discussed at Jury Management Conference

The Ohio Jury Management Association's annual conference this week focused on "Modern Jury Management," and I was delighted to be given the opportunity to address the group.

One of the topics I discussed is how so-called "new media" are transforming the way people communicate and how this effects courts and, in particular, the management of juries.

What do we mean by "new media"? The national Conference of Court Public Information Officers is doing a research project on the topic and has identified seven categories of new and emerging digital communication technology that are having an impact on the judicial system. These are:

1) Social Media Profile sites like Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn allow users to have an online personal profile and connect with defined networks of "friends."
2) Microblogging sites like Twitter are systems that allow users to post short (in the case of Twitter 140 characters) entries about what they are doing or thinking and build a network of followers and also other people they are following.
3) News categorizing, sharing and syndication is a broad category of sites and applications that are transforming the way news is delivered and consumed.
4) Smart Phones and Tablets like the iPhone, the Droid and the iPad, place portable multimedia capability in the palm of your hand and create obvious challenges for judges managing  their courtrooms.
5) Video sharing sites like YouTube and Hulu give anyone with a video device and an Internet connection the ability to compete with the evening news.
6) Wikis are collaborative online tools that allow for anyone to contribute to and access vast information resources.
7) Monitoring and metrics are sites and applications that give us powerful capabilities to make sense of this complex new media world by systematically collecting and analyzing information about how people are using new media and what people are saying in cyberspace.

All this new technology poses both great promise and potential complications for the courts. On the one hand, with enhanced  ability to communicate, we are aided in our mission of supporting public trust and confidence in the system by making it more transparent, accessible and understandable. However, the judiciary has a set of unique challenges when using this technology because of our equally important mandate to be independent and impartial. Jurors Twittering, judges Facebooking? Video iPhones in the courtroom?

It is indeed a brave new world, but it is also an exciting time to be working in the court system.

For more information about the CCPIO New Media project, visit this site, where if you like, you can join and contribute to the conversation.