SRCCON 2018 session pitch: New templates for presenting information

Here’s my pitch for this June’s SRCCON conference:

Dumplings, defamiliarization and how to create new templates for presenting information

Taeyoon Choi cooks dumplings to demonstrate how a CPU works. To teach creative applications of technology, he takes a fun and tactile approach in explaining a complex subject. We also aim to explain complicated topics in news, but constraints of time, money and staffing can make that difficult. Instead we often use formats like graphic templates or explainer stories. But what we if we created new templates that didn’t just simplify our subject matter, but made it engaging in a way that spurs exploration and understanding?

We’ll share examples like the CPU dumplings and ideas from art history like defamiliarization. Then we’ll break into groups to devise and compile new approaches to presenting information inspired by the discussion.

Initial inspiration came at NICAR18 in Chicago during a conversation with Allison McCartney (stay tuned for a future pitch we’re planning). A day before we chatted, I attended session on Data Viz in the Upside, which made me think of how the concept of defamiliarization could inform how journalists present information. Here are the slides from that session:

Additional inspiration for the SRCCON pitch came from this video:

Coincidentally, a few weeks after watching the dumpling video, I happened to watch a talk by John Maeda. A couple minutes in, he shows a clip from the 90s of a similar live-action explanation of how a computer works:

Overall, my favorite line was:

“You know, when people say, ‘I don’t get art. I don’t get it at all.’ That means art is working, you know?”

In news, of course, we want to help people “get it.” So, if the session is picked, we’ll try and adapt some techniques from art to improve understanding of the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SRCCON 2016 proposals: building a data community and embracing the arts

Since I’ll be in the country this time around, I’m hoping to attend my first SRCCON this summer in Portland. Here’s a brief description from the organizers, Knight-Mozilla OpenNews:

SRCCON is a hands-on conference focused on the practical challenges news technology and data teams encounter every day. We work to make it an inclusive and welcoming event where people can feel comfortable digging into complex problems.

Here are the pitches:

Continue reading SRCCON 2016 proposals: building a data community and embracing the arts

Images of inspiration: The visual genealogy of Kon, Jodorowsky and Friedrich

Watch this video essay by Tony Zhou about filmmaker and animator Satoshi Kon (h/t Robin Sloan on Snarkmarket).

First off, Zhou’s piece is absolutely wonderful.

One thing I find particularly fascinating is when you’re shown the original scene and a scene inspired by it — e.g. Inception and Black Swan.

The documentary “Jodorowsky’s Dune,” which I watched last weekend thanks to Sandro Mairata, offers similar examples in the context of science fiction, which are mentioned near the end of the trailer (1:42) — e.g. Alien, Blade Runner and The Matrix.

It also reminds me of “The 19th Century Painting That Most Blockbuster Movie Posters Are Based On.”

Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich
Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich (Courtesy Wikipedia)

It would be awesome to have a tool that maps the genealogy of visual imagery. Maybe something to incorporate into the Visipedia project.

Tell me: What are some other works that reveal the visual inspiration of a painting or a movie scene?

This piece is based on my comment on Robin’s Snarkmarket post.

Blockchains for News

Anil Dash’s piece on applying an underlying concept of Bitcoin to track digital art has me thinking about the potential applications of  blockchains for news. As he writes:

What the technology behind Bitcoin enables, in short, is the ability to track online trading of a digital object, without relying on any one central authority, by using the block chain as the ledger of transactions.

What if we built a blockchain system for news? Recording and verifying facts, data, updates, quotes, people, etc like the Bitcoin protocol tracks transactions in a database that no one owns, but of which everyone always has the same copy. (Update: This is meant more as “inspired by blockchains,” but it would be different kind of system because we’re not dealing with transferring or owning the units.)

How useful would that be in the reporting and dissemination of information? With all the noise introduced during breaking news and even long, complex story arcs, it seems like there’s a lot of potential here.

The nature and task of art is different from news, but there’s much we can learn (stay tuned for more posts on that topic). Consider this from Anil’s piece:

Reblogging is essential to getting the word out for many digital artists, but potentially devastating to the value of the very work it is promoting. What’s been missing, then, are the instruments that physical artists have used to invent value around their work for centuries — provenance and verification.

Think of these two key terms he uses.

Provenance. 

Verification.

In the context of news, provenance could be the source of information — or it could be who first reported something. Verification, of course, is already a common term.

The next question then is: What instruments do we have to give our work value?

Not methods. Instruments.

All this — you guessed it — also makes me think of GitHub for News (more here). That idea would make tracking updates, contributions, feedback and even facts more structured by incorporating them in a versioning system like git.

Neither GitHub for News nor Blockchains for News would solve all the problems they aim to tackle. Anil’s piece smartly notes in the art realm:

as with any new idea, it can be difficult to reckon with the implications. Steven Melendez asserted that monegraph could “eradicate fake digital art”, when this is exactly backwards. In fact monegraph makes it possible to have “fake digital art”, because prior to this we had no consistent way of defining an “original”.

So, where should we start?

UPDATE: More discussion and explanation…

PoW = proof of work

Also, just for fun and more Bitcoin background: By reading this article, you’re mining bitcoins

Jorge Luis Borges on “the task of art”

“The task of art is to transform what is continuously happening to us, to transform all these things into symbols, into music, into something that can last in man’s memory. That is our duty. If we don’t fulfill it, we feel unhappy. A writer or any artist has the joyful duty to transform all that into symbols. These symbols could be colors, forms or sounds. For a poet, the symbols are sounds and also words, fables, stories, poetry. The work of a poet never ends. It has nothing to do with working hours. You are continuously receiving things from the external world. These must be transformed, and eventually will be transformed. This revelation can appear anytime. A poet never rests. He’s always working, even when he dreams.”

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