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.
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.
We live in a society that is increasingly dependent on data and computation, a dependence that often evolves invisibly, without substantial critical assessment or accountability. Far from virtual, inert quantities, data and computation exert real forces in the physical world, shaping and defining systems of power that will play larger and larger roles in people’s lives.