Eyeball surgery

April 22, 2007

As most of you know, I go in for emergency retina surgery tomorrow morning in Atlanta. My family and I are leaving within the hour. I appreciate the many expressions of well wishes and of prayer. I am counting on these, in fact.

The doctors are likely to shut me down for awhile, so I’m not sure how soon I can return to normal. That is the reason for this post. When I can, I’ll be back online. Blogito, ergo sum. Cheers, and blessings, to all.

Community and Web 2.0

April 17, 2007

For our Online Community class, I’m asking for one last blog post from each of you, one that answers three core questions:

First, another stab at defining community, our third attempt. As with the previous attempts, try not to refer back to earlier definitions. Just you and the screen, informed by our class experience.

Second question: Is community possible online, purely online? Yes or no, and why or why not? So we’re not talking here about FaceBook, which we agreed is a Web site that primarily facilitates offline community. It is not meant to create or enable community only online.

Third question: Is social networking online — Web 2.0 — part of the problem, or is it part of the solution? Include in your answer what the problem is, and what might be its solution. If you’re having trouble with this one, think of Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone.

Post these prior to our last session together, Thursday, April 26, 12:30 p.m. We will discuss our responses then.

Before our next session, Tuesday, April 24, 12:30 p.m., at Schroeder’s Restaurant, could you please review our course objectives for course evaluations? They are (or were):

•    Develop an understanding of how community is enabled, nurtured, eroded and destroyed.
•    Understand how trust, reputation and social capital are established, embedded, manifest, exchanged and lost online.
•    Better understand how crowd-sourcing works by applying networking theory and emergence theory, including the power of weak ties.
•    Appreciate how the once-clear divisions between message producer and consumer, sender and receiver are blurring.
•    Understand how the architecture of the Internet and of Web sites affect the nature of community, communication, sharing and transacting.
•    Develop research skills, including online search skills.

Any questions on any of this, just leave a comment, and I’ll get back to you.

The Dead

April 12, 2007

Two people in attendance at last night’s Honors Convocation at Berry asked me for the poem I recited in my address, Miloslav Holub’s “The Dead.” (There were more than two at the convocation, btw :>)

I thought, for ease and simplicity, post it here and the two, along with anyone else who is interested, could have easy access to it.

I do hope I’m not infringing upon Mr. Holub’s copyrights. If I am, I’ll pull the poem right back down.

The Dead

After the third operation, his heart
pierced like an old carnival target,
he awoke in his bed and said,
“Now I’ll be fine,
like a sunflower, and by the way
have you ever seen horses make love?”

He died that night.

And another one plodded on for eight
milk and water years
like a long-haired waterplant
in a sour creek,
as if he stuck his pale face out
on a skewer from behind the graveyard wall.
Finally his face disappeared.

In both cases the angel of death
stamped on his hob-nailed boot
on their medulla oblongata.

I know they died the same death
but I don’t think they died
in the same way.

(I think the poem is riotously funny, while poignant at the same time. I hope you like it, too. ~bc)

Book notes

April 10, 2007

I’m happy to report my book on the black press and the integration of baseball is getting some early positive notice.

The story in today’s Rome News-Tribune on the book being a finalist for the Society of American Baseball Research’s Seymour Medal, awarded annually to the best book on baseball history or biography. I head to Cleveland later this month for the ceremony and two games at the Jake!

The story is also in my good friend John Druckenmiller’s online publication, HometownHeadlines. Thanks, Druck!

And The TCRecord, an online publication for scholarship in education is recommending the book to its visitors.

Darfur and multimedia journalism

April 6, 2007

While we are on the subject of Chad, a good time also to point to the latest work from backpack journalist and videographer Travis Fox of the WashingtonPost.com. Besides being a world-class journalist, Travis also is a gifted teacher. He taught a lot of us old dogs some awfully new tricks at UNC’s Multimedia Bootcamp a couple years ago, lessons I’m still applying.

His new project chronicles the genocide and perilous life of Africans in Chad’s Darfur region. You will want to watch the introduction, and you’ll want to sample the panaramic photography arrayed just under the main view screen. This is great stuff, and it shows the very different purposes of still photography and moving images. Stare at, become a part of the panaramic images. Allow the video to wash over you, drenching you in the sorrows that are life in Darfur.

If you really dig Travis’s work here, you’ll want to read his story for the Post on the experience.


Widget factory

April 6, 2007

A few students in the Online Community class asked what widgets are, so here’s a partial answer and a few examples.

This blog is powered by WordPress, which defines a widget as “a self-contained piece of code that you can move into, out of and anywhere inside your sidebar. You can use to personalize your blog and deliver information you want.” But widgets also are used by Web sites in general and news sites, specifically. As I mentioned in class, one of the most common type of widget is one that provides real-time weather information. I also mentioned the Mac’s many widget options.

The Morning Call newspaper in Pennsylvania recently added a widget that allows users to search for detailed information on kennels and breeders, a widget the paper offers to anyone for incorporation into their sites and blogs. So I could add the widget and you could use my blog to search on and for specific kennels, using the Morning Call’s extensive database to help you determine the good from the potentially criminal.

As you can probably guess, there are blogs devoted to finding and reviewing widgets, including  the blog SexyWidget.

Do you want a widget? Lots of places to go to get one, including WidgetBox: directory and syndication platform for web widgets for blogs and other web pages, including MySpace pages.

Online Journalism roundup

April 6, 2007

As you know, Randy Richardson and I presented last weekend at the International Symposium of Online Journalism, an event that served up some provocative questions and some delicious artifacts from the fast-evolving online news landscape. For my students in Introduction to Digital Communication and, to a lesser extent, for those in Editing and Media Law, here is a roundup of some of the symposium’s greatests hits.

Before I roll on, I do want to post to an abstract of our presentation on how credibility is changing for news and information online, as compared to credibility as it has traditionally been understood for legacy news media. Randy’s and my punchline: identification is an important new/old dimension to credibility online. It’s new because traditional paradigms of journalistic credibility do not incorporate or refer to it. Old because the notions of identification in persuasion, including its subsets of transparency, authenticity, shared perspective and common enemy, have been staples of rhetorical theory for decades. ‘Nuf said for now. Want more? Look for the article in an upcoming communication journal.

MediaStorm’s Zakouma multimedia

Perhaps the most transcendant moment of the symposium for me was Brian Storm’s presentation on multimedia storytelling. His company, MediaStorm, produces long-form multimedia packages, including one for National Geographic on the Zakouma elephant refuge in Chad. Folks should visit the MediaStorm homepage if for no other reason than to interact with its opening screens. Completely intuitive, and multi-channel, the site makes quite a first impression, one consistent with the identity and misssion of the company.

The Zakouma package in my mind represents digital storytelling at its best. Look for the use of still images, which you can gaze at and linger on, along with videography. Note the incorporation of the photographer’s and videographer’s own reactions and reflections. This is transparency and identification. This is agreeing with viewers that objectivity is a false ideal. These guys saw it up close, and they are professional storytellers and journalists. Their narrative is a critical dimension to the story, and our interaction with it. Of course, the photography is world-class.

We should also see how National Geographic took the varied, abundant content gathered by the Zakouma team and used it to build news stories, photo packages and video packages, all in addition to the stunning magazine piece that ties it all together. The reader can decide how much or how little to access.

Jeff Jarvis, Buzzmachine.com

Jarvis’s presentation on why he’s a cockeyed optimist (a quote of him on Frontline’s Newswar program) included this takeaway, borrowing from Boolean search terms: “We should be thinking ‘AND’ and not ‘OR’ in providing news. More, not less. New, not old.”

News organizations should do what they do best and link to the rest, he admonished, citing the Washington Post’s coverage of the Walter Reed Medical Center fiasco. The New York Times should not have to make any apologies for getting beat on the story, and it should not follow behind and do essentially the same story. Stick to what it does best, but link to the Post’s Walter Reed coverage.

I also really liked his idea, supported by what the News-Press is doing in Ft. Meyers, Fla., of crowdsourcing government, including podcasts of every open meeting. Podcast Sunshine! (The News-Press crowdsourced an investigation into city malfeasance in awarding bids, seeking readers’ help on the story on the front end. Among the documents readers turned up? A 387-page city audit.)

Jarvis also rightly pointed to NewAssignment.net, a venture spearheaded by one of my heroes in higher ed, Jay Rosen at NYU. The premise is to slice up a story into pieces that the crowd can divide and conquer. Jarvis’s descriptions made me think of ants, which are helpful in understanding crowdsourcing. Ants can find sugar on the kitchen counter in minutes because there are so many of them and because they operate locally, in a decentralized fashion.

Web 2.0 social networking is getting a great deal of attention, and with that attention always comes the profit motive. How can we make money off of what people are doing online? Jarvis shared this gold nugget from the Davos conference, in which a big media publisher asked FaceBook founder Mark Zuckerberg: “How can I create what you have? How can I create community?” Zuckerberg’s response: “You can’t.” His point, important for my Online Community class, is that FaceBook did not create community, it merely enables the community people already have. The community was already there on college campuses throughout the country. Zuckerberg came up with a way to enable and empower them, an “elegant organization” and communication tool.

Finally, I liked Jarvis’s play on the WWJD bracelet phenomenon. When asking how to monetize news online, how to make money, the question should be: WWGD? What would Google do? Micromarketing. Targeted marketing. Re-think our relationship to the market by looking not to the Pradas of the world, the million-dollar accounts, but to the thousands of $100 accounts. As a speaker said on Day 2 of the conference (I forget which one), “destination sites can’t match long tail activity.” Think small. Think many. WWGD?