13 Mar 2013

All posts from 13 Mar 2013

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Consuming Data Responsibly

We live in an age of information overload.  As a former media research analyst and media planner, I’m always fascinated by the power of data to inform and persuade. While I’ve never been a journalist myself, I’ve been fortunate to have worked in environments where journalistic integrity was a key tenet of the organization.  Additionally, since much of my work has been on the advertising side of the “church and state” separation, I’ve been sensitized to the needs of the consumer.  Thus, I was excited to be attending a few panels on how data and information affects the content we consume.

Info Diet

Info Diet

On Saturday, I attended a session entitled “The Information Diet”.  The presenter, Clay Johnson, posited that much as food corporations have been consolidated, so have media corporations.  In an age of overabundance, just as junk food can lead to obesity, junk information can lead to new forms of ignorance. This has become especially true in an era of increasingly biased media. These biased news organizations feed people’s need to feel affirmed, rather than providing accurate information.

Johnson offered the following tips for a healthy information diet:

1. Watch what you consume.  This can be as simple as keeping a log, or as structured as using a app called Rescue Time which keeps track for you.
2. Schedule your use of media.
3. Be careful with advertising-based media.
4. Go local.  In general, people are woefully unaware of their local city council persons, who have a large impact on people’s daily lives.
5. Be a producer, not a consumer.  He encourages people to write 500 words at the beginning of every day.

On Sunday, I attended a panel discussion entitled “Journalism by #s: Data Will Change Nature of News.” In contrast to the previous one, this one was comprised mostly of journalists.  The question was raised “Does data drive the story or does the story drive the data?”  The answer, we were told, was: “Neither. Data makes the story better.”

The moderator, Emily Ramshaw, exclaimed “Data has become the topic du jour, it’s super sexy.”  However, it’s not enough just to provide readers with a “data dump.” For them, the value lies in knowing what questions to ask about the data, and how to extract it. Additionally, anecdotal information adds personal interest to the data.  After all, people have more of an impact on us than statistics.

Journalism by #s: Data Will Change Nature of News

Journalism by #s: Data Will Change Nature of News

At one point, an audience member asked “Who is interpreting site metrics, and how does that influence editorial meetings?”  You could almost feel the tension and uneasiness in the air. One of the panelists answered that there was a sensitivity about letting site metrics affect the news.  He also acknowledged that one of the goals of his company was to increase site traffic. Personally, for me, it raised a question: how much consumer influence is too much?   How can media organizations balance giving the masses news and information they want to know, versus what they should know?

A common idea that ran through both sessions is that we’re now in an era when there is no shortage of information. As savvy media consumers, ultimately it’s up to us to decide what kind and how much media to consume.  Johnson noted, “Our definition of ignorance has changed. It’s no longer a result of the lack of information, but rather the over-consumption of it.”

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Consuming Data Responsibly
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SXSW Wrap-up Day 5 – lunch choices, idols and humor

After five days, South by Southwest Interactive is over. The crowds at the Austin Convention Center have changed from the gadget-toting tech crowd to the guitar-carrying, tattooed crowd for the Music portion of the event.

Somewhere around 30,000 people attended the South by Southwest Interactive, including our Flip the Media team. Here are our final thoughts from Austin before heading back to Seattle.

Bizzy Schorr: Of course, on the last day, I discover the best place to eat lunch – as long as you can get there before 1:30 p.m.  Best. Crepes. Ever!  I also decided that the Austin weather is bipolar. I can handle rain, snow, sun, and hail all on the same day. What I can’t handle is the temperature fluctuating over a range of 30 degrees in a 12 hour period! Multiple times!

SXSW comedy

SXSW comedy panel

On a more serious note I was very worried after a panel this morning when a geneticist presented some really exciting activity in the genotyping space and then admitted that she and her colleagues have no communication strategy – or plans to develop one – to help guide public discussion about these developments. Without establishing a proper framework, that could get really ugly really fast!

Daimon Eklund: The marketing aspect of SXSW is massive. Almost everywhere you go in downtown Austin signs, flyers and guerrilla marketing teams try to grab your attention for some brand or product. Ground zero for this is the Austin Convention Center itself and the SXSW trade show. There is some cool stuff there, but after walking through it for a few minutes all the lights and colors and sounds and pitches and competing ploys became too much.

It’s more subtle in the panel discussions themselves, but it doesn’t hurt to remember that everyone, no matter how good the message, is pitching their own point of view. There are a lot of great ideas to be found at SXSW, but it pays to examine them closely, and make sure they hold up in a critical light outside of the panel room.

My official SXSW experience ended on a much lighter note, and some marketing I didn’t mind being exposed to. IFC sponsored a panel of comedians who have or are developing shows on the network – Fred Armisen, Marc Maron, Scott Aukerman and Chris Gethard – to talk about how to transition from alternative comedy to television. Self-serving, sure, but also a lot of fun, with even some serious discussion about how media fragmentation has, in some ways, made it easier to keep a unique voice even when transitioning to more mass media.

Also, Armisen repeatedly hijacked the panel, going on lengthy riffs of regional accent impersonations. Including a back-and-forth with a questioner in Spanish, mimicking various Latin American accents. A light finish was welcome after five days of heavy discussions about the future of media and technology.

Nick Cave

Nick Cave waves to the SXSW crowd

Patrick Doherty: I’ve been waiting all week for this! Fellow Aussie Nick Cave of the Birthday Party and the Bad Seeds had a panel Tuesday morning. One of Australia’s best songwriters, Nick is also a novelist, screenwriter and actor. I’m pretty sure the words digital or social media never crossed his lips. But I didn’t care – it was great to hear him talk with honesty, humor and sardonic wit about his life and career. I’ll end the gushing now. Three things I didn’t  know about him – he was a choir boy, he lived in Brazil for three years and he has two sons born 10 days apart.

Thanks MCDM for another great SXSW. It was equal parts frustrating, tiring, inspiring, enlightening and loads of fun. I’ll be back!

Carolyn Higgins: The last day at SXSW was the usual experiential grab-bag – people walking past me on the street in neon spandex and 12-inch mohawks interspersed with panels that delve into serious questions, like where that ideal cross-over between the immediacy of social media and the prudence of top-flight journalism lies.  It was bright sunshine, new people, and goodbyes, the intense hush of the press room and the mad dash to the airport.  What a day – what a week – what a SXSW.

 

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SXSW Wrap-up Day 5 – lunch choices, idols and humor
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The Future of “Wearables,” Part 2

A conversation with Carolyn Higgins and Bizzy Schorr

On Saturday, we posted a wrap up of the SXSW presentation on the future of smart fashion; a few days and several panels later, what are we thinking about the topic?

Bizzy: All these products were pretty single function, and I need my jacket to do more than control the volume of my iPod before it becomes a useful development.

Carolyn: Agreed! Some of these things did seem to be solutions looking for problems. However, the pilates shirt that can correct posture mistakes could prevent injury – that’s smart fashion I could get into.  Literally!

Bizzy: So far these smart fashion products are focused on safety or fitness. I spend most of my time reading, networking, or creating, so none of these articles of clothing will replace any of my current devices. Give me a jewelery set that makes phone calls and then we can talk.

Carolyn: There we diverge. As a fiber artist, I appreciate traditional textiles – I prize them, in fact. But marrying fiber optics and other “smart” technology with fabric both for the sake of art and for greater functionality is something that intrigues me.

Bizzy: The concept is definitely intriguing.  However, the features and function of these devices don’t seem nearly as robust as Google’s Glass – which I’d really like to test drive. While the aesthetic value of Glass could be debated, it has a lot more functionality and will be fundamentally more useful.

Carolyn: True, but you have to start somewhere. In a few short years, Jennifer Darmour and designers like her have truly gone out of the box to rethink clothing. It’s not all for me, and there are big problems, like washability and the energy the garments require. But I look forward to seeing what happens next.

Bizzy: You also have to consider the aesthetics of function. An iPhone is not fundamentally beautiful as a piece of plastic. Its beauty is in its performance. None of yesterday’s devices showed the sort of graceful functionality of an iPhone. Even though I’m not an apple user, for me to invest in wearable tech, like a smart jacket, it would have to affect my life on the level of the iPhone, with the grace of an iPhone.

Carolyn: I think of how strictly utilitarian some of our everyday things are. When you consider a bike helmet, for example, we know how important they are, but form and function are miles apart. We wear them because we need to, not because we want to. But in considering what it is that we need them to do and how we can improve the aesthetics, we just might make them better, more fun for people to wear, and save a few more lives. Who knows – imagine wearing a bike helmet to a formal affair because you love the way it looks.

Tell us what you think about integrating technology and fashion.  What sort of smart fashion developments would you like to see?

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The Future of “Wearables,” Part 2