For Silicon Valley you don't have to get on a plane, you just have to land in Tilburg. Spoorzone Tilburg offers plenty of room for visionaries, the experts of the future. With them we cast a glance into the crystal ball and conjure up inspiring quotes, wild ideas, cutting edge innovations and downright utopian perspectives. Daniëlle Arets, expert in Smart Media at Fontys Hogeschool voor de Journalistiek and MindLabs, takes us in four propositions to the future of smart journalism, one of the six strategic themes MindLabs contributes to the activity in the Spoorzone, the municipality of Tilburg and the province of Noord-Brabant.
"Journalism becomes subservient to the consumer"
"Don't get me wrong," Daniëlle hastens to say with this statement, "reporting news objectively and independently will still be as important in fifteen years as it is today. But the way we do it is changing dramatically. The major changes we face in the world are becoming more urgent. Climate change, the energy transition, war and refugees. These continue to be news that we must deliver. At the same time, these are complex, abstract issues. It is no longer comprehensible to many people. The changing role of journalism lies, among other things, in the fact that we must make this more tangible."
She herself - in addition to her journalistic background - has a past in the design world. "There it's unthinkable that you don't talk to end users about your design. Journalism still does this too little," she says. By looking closely at what activates people, and responding to that, the role of the media remains relevant. "It is very likely that we will have to bring the news in new ways: with VR and other embodied or immersive technology, tools to make stories more tangible. What if an item about flooding literally makes you feel the water at your ankles? That makes an impact," she emphasizes. "These are examples of applications that we are experimenting with within the academy's teaching and lectureship, together with MindLabs partners."
"Local communities are becoming increasingly important"
The world is getting smaller - we video call contacts in Africa or Asia with the greatest of ease and fly to the farthest ends of the earth in no time. And yet, notes Daniëlle, the need to connect with communities close to us is growing. "Local media will have a greater role in the near future. Interaction with the members of a community will be leading for what they do," she states. Fontys College of Journalism, for which Daniëlle works, will move to Spoorzone Tilburg in 2022. The school will then be a partner in MindLabs together with Tilburg University, ROC and DPG Media, among others. "This move is extremely relevant to the development of our education and our lectureship, especially in light of this thesis. In Spoorzone Tilburg we are at the heart of society. Everything that happens and takes place here, the partners here in the building - everything feeds us in the conversation about what we do."
In addition, the journalism program collaborates with other colleges in the city, such as with ICT and with the Academy for the Creative Industry. "To keep stories manageable, we are looking for new narratives. New ways of telling the story. The creative industry is an inspiration for that. There, there is more eye for imagination and for soft values such as integrity and trust. And for new forms in which we can bring stories close to people - think of theater, performance and everything to do with visual language. So we're only going to build on that collaboration in the coming years."
"Smarter collaboration is needed worldwide"
It may still be fresh in your mind: the Panama Papers. In 2015, a whole bucket of confidential documents were leaked. What followed is still the largest international journalistic research project ever. And there are more collaborations like this to come, predicts Daniëlle. "One of the research fields our professorship focuses on is exactly this: how do we deal with the digital field? There is an awful lot of information available in the world, and in the field of newsgathering much of it is actually virgin territory. In this, too, we work closely with Fontys' ICT training and with the other partners in MindLabs."
There are various challenges involved in rummaging through large amounts of information in search of news. To name just the first: working with and interpreting data requires a new set of skills. What kind of skills are they? And what does that mean for the journalists of the future? And then there are the ethics. How far do you go in what is and isn't allowed with data? "We are already investigating those kinds of issues. And in the meantime we are also thinking about ways in which we can continue to connect with the news consumer. Think about building and managing our own news platforms. We are now seeing that social media are eating the cheese from our bread in this area. And that creates undesirable things like disinformation or information bubbles," says Daniëlle. "Whereas if you are both well-informed, then it is also better to disagree with each other. As far as I'm concerned, that's what society is built on. So here is definitely work to be done in the coming years."
"Tilburg has an interesting ecosystem to shape developments"
"What makes Tilburg enormously strong as far as I am concerned is the large amount of SMEs in this region. We see and notice that these entrepreneurs are very willing to work with us on innovations in the field of Smart Media. For example, by helping students find internships, or by facilitating research." The infrastructure, Daniëlle would like to say, in the city and the region is perfectly equipped for creating the media landscape of the future. This is due to the courses and students present, but also to the cooperation with researchers from Tilburg University and with entrepreneurs from the region. "Tilburg has an interesting ecosystem to shape the developments mentioned above. And that makes it for us - together with the other knowledge institutions here that have united in MindLabs, among others - incredibly pleasant to work with."
MindLabs is a partnership involving three knowledge institutions, governments and a growing company of business partners, social institutions and startups. The physical location is now being built in Spoorzone Tilburg and will be ready in 2022. Currently MindLabs operates from the Deprez building, also located in Spoorzone Tilburg. Together, MindLabs partners strengthen the development of technologies that interact with human behavior; or human centered AI. With the unique capabilities of these technologies, partners want to help solve societal challenges. The focus is on technologies from artificial intelligence such as robotics and avatars, mixed and virtual reality, serious gaming, natural language and data technologies.More MindLabs
Spoorzone Tilburg is the new and pioneering talent and innovation district of the Netherlands. Adjacent to the railway station and well connected to the city, region and country, it offers the ideal base for your company or satellite establishment. In this raw industrial area full of culture, hospitality and history in the center of the city, people are working hard on the future. It is a knowledge-driven biodome built for and by creative entrepreneurs with interactive technologies and behavior as the basis. The presence of Tilburg University, ROC and Fontys Hogescholen provides knowledge, talent and vision. The area itself is compact and sustainably developed and offers a life long stay for entrepreneurs from startup to scale-up and beyond.Meer Spoorzone