Posts Tagged ‘Community’
At their big developer conference this week Google introduced a slew of new features for Google Maps, but one caught my eye more than any other. Google suggested that the future of maps would be personalized. On their blog they asked, “What if we told you that during your lifetime, Google could create millions of custom maps…each one just for you?” They expand on the idea:
“In the past, such a notion would have been unbelievable: a map was just a map, and you got the same one for New York City, whether you were searching for the Empire State Building or the coffee shop down the street. What if, instead, you had a map that’s unique to you, always adapting to the task you want to perform right this minute?”
This led Emily Badger at Atlantic Cities to wonder if Google’s new maps might take the “filer bubble” experience into the physical world, “We may never know what we are not seeing.” While, I share Badger’s concern, I also think that we are always already rewriting the maps we use to navigate the swiftly changing world around us. The question we should ask is do we trust the maps made by Google’s algorithm more or less than we trust those made by our hearts and minds.
In the fall of 2006 Rebecca Solnit published an essay called “Maps for the Year Ahead” in Orion Magazine. The piece offers a number of striking observations about space, place, and land in the wake of tragedy. Looking at events like the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco and hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, Solnit draws a connection between urban sprawl and the power of natural disasters to make us feel disoriented and, in a very real sense, ungrounded.
This reminded me of a friend of mine who led rafting trips. He once told me that each year, and after big rain storms, river guides have to re-learn the river because the river bed changes so dramatically. Solnit’s discussion of displacement and mapping made me wonder how often we have to re-learn our landscape and how quickly it can change. Read the rest of this entry »
Shells has created a series of official-looking street signs quoting rap lyrics that mention parts of the city – intersections, buildings, parks and other landmarks. He then posts the quotes at those locations, grounding the lyrics in the place that inspired them and creating a hip-hop geography of the city. Read the rest of this entry »
Three new funding opportunities for journalists and media makers shine a spotlight on the role of media in community engagement and civic health. This comes at a critical moment when, across the journalism landscape we are finally seeing deep reciprocal collaborations between journalists and technologists. Journalism schools are combining forces with computer science programs, the Knight Mozilla fellows just placed their third round of developers in newsrooms and every week there seems to be another hack-a-thon for journalists.
Journalists and technologists working together is a good thing for journalism, but also for local communities. It is notable that this era of collaboration is coming as trends are pushing both professions deeper into the public. Borrowing a phrase from Rich Harwood, they are “turning outward,” a process that emphasizes “making the community and the people the reference point for getting things done.”
In journalism this is embodied by the rise of community engagement efforts within newsrooms. It is part of a growing recognition that journalism will rise and fall with its community. Whether it is a paywalled newspaper that depends on subscriptions or a public broadcaster who depends on memberships, building community around the news on and offline is one of the critical challenges facing journalists today.
At the same time in technology we’ve seen incredible and inventive projects that focus on how technology can be brought to bear on community issues. This civic innovation takes many forms, from public health hack-a-thons to crisis mapping. Pair this with a rise in Gov 2.0 and transparency efforts and we see people working inside and outside government to better connect technology to civic life. Read the rest of this entry »
I’m not one to make predictions about the future of our media. I’m much more interested in prescriptions. Rather than talking about what we think might happen, let’s discuss what we agree needs to happen and how we might get there. The media isn’t just something that happens to us — it is something we can and must be part of creating and reshaping ourselves. Here are three critical issues we must tackle in the coming year. Read the rest of this entry »
I saw a tweet last night that went something like: “People must love biased news because CNN is doing so poorly while the other networks are doing great.” This was inspired by new reports of CNN’s second quarter ratings, which New York Times reports, “plunged by 40 percent from a year ago,” for its prime-time shows. We can all debate about definitions of doing well and doing poorly, but in general I think a lot of people agree with this sentiment that bias drives views.
CNN isn’t plummeting in the rankings because people love “biased news.” However, what MSNBC and FOX News understand, that I think CNN doesn’t, is that people want to see themselves in the stories they consume. This is as true of novels they choose as it is of the news they decide to watch.
This aspect of the debate over objectivity has received too little attention, but it is fundamental to how stories function. For a long time objectivity was a source of trust – (i.e. “You can trust me because I don’t have a dog in this race”) – but it also had a cost. The cost was journalists’ relationship with their audience and their communities. Read the rest of this entry »
The annual Pew State of the News Media report is like a yearly physical exam for journalism in America. This year the prognosis is mixed, at best. Newspapers are still raking in double-digit operating margins, but after years of consolidation they are over-leveraged with debt that is cutting into their profits. There are more hours of news on local TV, but much of it consists of rebroadcasts, meaning there is actually less original reporting. Tablets and mobile devices are driving significant new traffic to news sites, but monetizing that traffic is still difficult.
A Stress Test for Civic Health
Underneath all the numbers is a troubling narrative that has spanned the last few Pew reports and continues through this year’s study. Everyone agrees that we are in a tumultuous time for journalism in America, with both enormous opportunity and profound challenges — the numbers confirm that. But what is harder to quantify is the impact this unevenness and uncertainty is having on local communities. The authors of the Pew report provide some hints.
“The civic implications of the decline in newspapers are … becoming clearer,” the authors write. “[M]ore evidence emerged that newspapers (whether accessed in print or digitally) are the primary source people turn to for news about government and civic affairs. If these operations continue to shrivel or disappear, it is unclear where, or whether, that information would be reported.”
While a growing cadre of reporting projects and journalism sites is contributing in critical ways to expanding news in many communities, most still come nowhere near the size of traditional newsrooms, and many are struggling to transition from startup to sustainability. Some of those startups are being developed by committed journalists who have left newspapers. Pew estimates that 1,000 newsgathering jobs were lost in 2010, which is a small number compared to the years prior, but still significant. Read the rest of this entry »
I recently wrote a post entitled “Wired to Connect” which explored how we are expressing our drive to connect with others in the age of Twitter, Facebook, and MySapce. A few weeks later I read a really interesting article called “Am I Still Here: Looking for Validation in a Wired World” which also explored the idea of “connecting,” but took a more skeptical view of the role of new technology.
The article, by Anthony Doerr, points out the ways in which, through technology, our desire to connect with others can develop into a persistent need for validation. To make this point he introduces us to his “dark twin,” named Z.
He writes, “I like weather; Z survives in spite of it. I like skiing; Z likes surfing the web. I like looking at trees; Z likes reading news feeds. I pull weeds in the garden; Z whispers in my ear about climate change, nuclear proliferation, ballooning health-insurance premiums.” As a environmentalist with a gadget geek tucked away inside, his article struck home with me. Yet, while this characterization seemed spot on, it was something he wrote later that I found particularly insightful. See if you recognize this scenario: Read the rest of this entry »
My wife and I are in the middle of buying our first house, a 150 year old farmhouse on half an acre of land. As we talk about moving into this old home with all its history, I was reminded of the summer of 1995.
A few months before my senior year in high school my family took a two week vacation in Colorado. We flew into Denver and rented a Winnebago. It was to be a two week road trip around the state arriving back in Denver with enough time to visit my parents’ old neighborhood. They lived in Colorado for most of the seventies, until just after I was born, and they hoped to end our trip with a visit the first house they bought together.
On the last day of our trip my dad wound the big Winnebago through the city streets of Denver. However, when we got to their old block the tight rows of small houses that they had describe to my sister and I were missing. In their place was a monstrous grocery store. The gray cement building stretched across three blocks in one direction and its parking lot extended for two blocks the other way. My dad drove slowly around the perimeter of the building, gawking in confused disbelief. Tears streamed silently down my mothers face and filled the big vehicle with a tense silence. Read the rest of this entry »
Is anyone else really sick of hearing about Obama’s first 100 days? Cable and network news pundits repeat the phrase like a mantra, meant to justify their incessant jabber. News websites and politics blogs have big banners across their site pointing people to their “First 100 Days” section. Conversations around the water cooler count out the days, and discuss what has been accomplished, or not.
As best as I can tell the whole 100 days phenomenon is little more than a constructed timeline, designed and implemented in large part by the media to keep people coming back for more. After record ratings, web hits, and sales during the news-heavy election season, the media needs something to lure people back. In this way, the rhetoric of the first 100 days has simply and slickly replaced the rhetoric of horserace politics that was featured there before.
Instead of routing you to their “Election Center,” websites point you to their “100 Days Page.” Instead of counting down to November 4th, they are counting down to April 30th. But wait, do weekends count? If not then then we are counting down until June 2nd. But wait, are we counting holidays?
And that’s the thing – 100 days is absolutely arbitrary. Read the rest of this entry »
In early 2007 I was asked to write a series of blog posts for a youth conservation organization examining the intersection of service, civil rights, and the environment for Martin Luther King Day. In one of those posts I mused about MLK’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech from the 1963 March on Washington. Actually, I mused on the way that MLK was introduced to the crowd gathered there on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The person who introduced King called him the moral leader of our nation.
When I was writing in early 2007 I commented on how striking this phrase was, because I couldn’t imagine any one person today being called the moral leader of our country. Moral leadership, at least on the national political stage, was all but absent. However, that same week a Senator from Chicago stood on the steps of Illinois’ Old State Capital (where Abraham Lincoln had stood before him) and announced he was running for president of the United States. At the time I didn’t know much about Barack Obama, but now, twenty months later we have all learned volumes about who he is and what he stands for, and I am beginning to hope that moral leadership may be on the rise again. Read the rest of this entry »
On October 7th, the New York Times published two separate articles that explored the connection between food, farming and community. The two articles, published in two different sections of the paper (NY Region and Food & Wine), are interesting for the fundamental differences in the stories they tell.
Published in the NY Region section of the paper, “Sweat Equity Put to Use Within Sight of Wall St.” by Jim Dwyer profiles a small community farm project in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The article describes Red Hook this way: Read the rest of this entry »