The Baseball Backchannel

The term "backchannel" has been used by New York University professor and new media philosopher Jay Rosen and others to describe the new opportunity, provided by the web and mobile technology, for the audience (of anything) to talk to each other during events.

The backchannel changes the the flow of communication and, in turn, the flow of authority. Now the audience can yell at the Master of Ceremonies behind his or her back. Think TV viewers tweeting during the Oscars.

As Rosen says:
"The horizontal flow changes the situation for speakers and producers in any communication setting that retains the trappings of one-to-many."
Recently I've come across an unexpectedly fascinating manifestation of the backchannel: beat bloggers and reporters tweeting during live broadcasts of the baseball games they are covering.

Now don't get me wrong, baseball telecasts are famous for their broadcasters, and good play-by-play guys like Dave Niehaus, who covers the Seattle Mariners are essential to the game. But these days in the Twittersphere, another broadcast is going on. The bloggers and reporters (like Dave Cameron of USS Mariner, Larry Stone of the Seattle Times, and Ryan Divish of the Tacoma News Tribune) who cover the Mariners are engaged in full-fledged tweetscussion that is more journalistic and analytic than the generally feel-good back-and-forth that happening between Niehaus and his partner Mike Blowers on the air (obviously not ALL local commentators are so positive, but still). It adds another layer of interpretation to the game for fanatics like me, and so far has significantly reduced the number of times per game I yell at the TV screen.

Baseball fan? I recommend the experience.

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