Information Ecology

Visualizing the Invisible News

November 17, 2010
Bill Rankin

Data visualization leverages the universal grammar of images. When it succeeds, it delivers its impact concisely with elegant design and transmits complex data with split second-efficiency. Numerous blogs are dedicated to data visualizations, such as Information is Beautiful, Flowing Data, Cool Infographics, and Visualizing Economics. The Twittersphere was buzzing last July with this striking Clay Shirky-inspired “Cognitive Surplus Visualized” representation of hours of TV watched plotted against hours spent to create Wikipedia. Companies like IBM employ researchers and computer scientists at their Visual Communication Lab, whose Many Eyes research experiment encourages the public to “upload data, visualize it, and talk about their discoveries with other people.” 

Mobile Phones and 21st Century Poverty Alleviation

November 15, 2010
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The first place winner of the State Department’s Apps 4 Africa Competition – a calling for technologists in East Africa to build the best digital tools to address community challenges – was awarded to a mobile application called iCow.  The voice-based App helps farmers maximize the value of their cows by tracking breeding periods and monitoring nutrition levels leading up to a calf’s birth. Another winner was an SMS service called Mamakiba, a mobile platform designed to help low-income women cope with the financial burdens of maternal health such as antenatal care and clinical delivery. The App maintains savings targets for user’s healthcare costs and establishes prepayments through a mobile money platform (M-PESA).

If there could be a competition for the technology device with the fastest adoption in the developing world, mobile phones far and away would take first place. From 2003 to 2009, in Least Developed Countries, average penetration of mobile subscriptions rose from 2 per 100 inhabitants to 25 per 100 inhabitants (with this penetration likely being higher due to numerous mobile users and multiple SIM cards per single phone). To put this into perspective, a report from the United Nations University concluded that more people in India have access to mobile phones than bathrooms. Globally, by the end of this year, there will be an estimated 5.3 billion mobile cellular subscriptions; more astoundingly, the developing world will account for more than two-thirds of these subscriptions. No such technology has ever seen such a rapid rate of adoption according to the International Telecommunication Union, and the developing world is leading the way.

So how is this ubiquitous device being leveraged as a tool for poverty reduction?

In the Grip of the New Monopolists

  • By
  • Tim Wu,
  • New America Foundation
November 15, 2010 |

How hard would it be to go a week without Google? Or, to up the ante, without Facebook, Amazon, Skype, Twitter, Apple, eBay and Google? It wouldn't be impossible, but for even a moderate Internet user, it would be a real pain. Forgoing Google and Amazon is just inconvenient; forgoing Facebook or Twitter means giving up whole categories of activity. For most of us, avoiding the Internet's dominant firms would be a lot harder than bypassing Starbucks, Wal-Mart or other companies that dominate some corner of what was once called the real world.

Programs:

Enterprising Collaborations Will Unite Diverse Philly Groups in Journalistic Endeavors, Thanks to Awards

November 16, 2010
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As barriers that once defined the field of journalism―between writer and audience, community and editor―continue to morph, one of the great challenges facing the field is how to navigate these new intersections. And while it’s no secret that all kinds of media players―from large, established, mainstream media outlets to much smaller, community-based groups―could use additional funding given the transitional state of the industry, a recent announcement may signal a brighter future for some: A number of previously unheralded media players received Philadelphia Enterprise Reporting Awards to perform some particularly innovative journalism. The awards of $5,000, announced by J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism and funded by the William Penn Foundation, will help get 14 collaborative, public affairs-oriented journalism projects off the ground in the city of brotherly love. 

Why Fox News Should Help Fund NPR

  • By
  • Steve Coll,
  • New America Foundation
October 29, 2010 |

National Public Radio's decision to fire news analyst Juan Williams after he made controversial comments on Fox News about Muslims has become — for some Republican lawmakers, at least — a teachable moment. NPR, House speaker-in-waiting John Boehner (R-Ohio) said recently, is a "left-wing radio network" and should be stripped of federal funding. Eric Cantor, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Bill O'Reilly and other conservative voices have issued similar calls.

Programs:

The Master Switch

  • By
  • Tim Wu,
  • New America Foundation
November 2, 2010

According to Columbia professor and policy advocate Tim Wu, the great information empires of the 20th century have followed a clear and distinctive pattern: after the chaos that follows a major technological innovation, a corporate power intervenes and centralizes control of the new medium--the master switch. Wu chronicles the turning points of the century' s information landscape: those decisive moments when a medium opens or closes, from the development of radio to the Internet revolution, where centralizing control could have devastating consequences.

Where's MPI?: Media Policy Initiative Week in Review

October 15, 2010
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We took a week off here at MPI’s Week in Review, but we’re back now with lots to talk about. Let’s call this post a “Two Weeks in Review.”

As part of the release of Fiona Morgan’s MPI case study on the Research Triangle, North Carolina, based on The Knight Commission Report on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, the Triangle Community Foundation hosted a forum on Oct. 8 in Durham, N.C. Moderated by MPI Fellow Tom Glaisyer, the event brought together a variety of prominent figures in Triangle media (both traditional and new) to discuss the state of Triangle media, as well as the implications of Morgan’s report.

Media policy and the online community news start-up

October 1, 2010

I attended the Block-by-Block Community News Summit in Chicago on Sept. 24, an event sponsored by the Reynolds Journalism Institute, where I spoke to hyper-local and community news start-up founders about policy issues they are facing in journalism's digital age. Below is a summary of the issues, followed by the founders' comments. 

Where’s MPI?: Media Policy Initiative Week in Review

October 1, 2010
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Plenty going on this week.

On Sept. 29, Fellow Jessica Clark published a blog post on behalf of American University’s Center for Social Media, “Making the Case for Public Media at the RIPE Conference.” The RIPE conference (Re-visionary Interpretations of the Public Enterprise) in London early last month was the site of a discussion on the role of public media, specifically public service broadcasters (PSBs), in the digital age. 

Where's MPI?: Media Policy Week in Review

September 24, 2010
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Today through tomorrow, Michigan State University College of Law is hosting a conference with an intriguingly global title: “Bits Without Borders: Law, Communications & Transnational Culture Flow in the Digital Age.”  With immigration as an integral element of American culture, it is easy to see that such “transnational flow” of all kinds of information is both active and growing within the U.S. MPI fellow Phil Napoli will be joining a panel on “Diversity in Digital Global Age” and has submitted a paper entitled “Persistent and Emergent Diversity Policy Concerns in an Evolving Media Environment: Toward a Reflective Research Agenda.

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