Category Archives: new media

The Death of the Traditional Media — and the Pulitzer Prizes

Pulitzer Prize Medal

Pulitzer Prize Medal

I  read this list of this year’s Pulitzers and thought about those who are saying that journalism is dead.  This is clearly the kind of investigation and reporting that need to be done  [all the below quoted from the NYT artice]:

  • The Las Vegas Sun for the exposure of the high death rate among construction workers on the Las Vegas Strip amid lax enforcement of regulations, leading to changes in policy and improved safety conditions;
  • The Houston Chronicle Staff for becoming a lifeline to the city when Hurricane Ike struck;
  • David Barstow of The New York Times for his reporting that revealed how some retired generals, working as radio and television analysts, had been co-opted by the Pentagon to make its case for the war in Iraq, and how many of them also had undisclosed ties to companies that benefited from policies they defended;
  • Bettina Boxall and Julie Cart of the Los Angeles Times for their fexploration into the cost and effectiveness of attempts to combat the growing menace of wildfires across the western United States;
  • The East Valley Tribune, Mesa, AZ, for adroit use of limited resources to reveal, in print and online, how a popular sheriff’s focus on immigration enforcement endangered investigation of violent crime and other aspects of public safety.

How are we going to support this kind of journalism?  We need fulltime journalists with resources behind them; but how?

New Course for Spring: Digital Narratives


CCN: 42875.
Time: Wed. 2-4*
Location: 110 South Hall

*May change — contact vanhouse@ischool and I’ll explain.

Current developments in multimedia technology are leading to increased use of a variety of media for representation for communication. These include still images, video, animation and audio as well as text.  A number of existing applications make it increasingly easy for people to develop their own multimodal “texts” without special expertise.  The question is: How are people using these resources? How can they be effectively used?  And how can these resources be better designed to support these efforts?

We will look at two common applications areas to investigate these questions:
(1)    Do It Yourself: construction and use of multimodal resources for showing, teaching, and learning in the field of do-it-yourself  (crafts, building, repair, and related activities without professional help); and
(2)    Digital story-telling, for personal/collective history but for other purposes as well.

MORE about the content of the course below.


Graduate students interested in exploring the confluence of emerging technologies and narratives of various kinds. Could include students from the School of Information, Computer Science, Education, Art Practice, Architecture, Archeology, Film Studies, New Media…a wide variety of areas.   Grad students only unless and undergrad manages to convince us otherwise.


Prof. Nancy Van House, School of Information: has done considerable work on digital personal and collective memory, visual studies, new media.

Dr. Elizabeth Churchill, Yahoo Research: has a PhD in cognitive science. She works at Yahoo on various projects related to digital memory,  user-generated content, and digital resources for DIY (do-it-yourself.)


Our reasons for choosing these two areas:  there’s considerable interest, activity, and user-generated content in each.  This interest is likely to continue and grow (they aren’t current fads).

These areas share some similarities: they can benefit from both pre-existing and specially-constructed visual, audio, and textual resources.  Both are of considerable interest among non-professionals, as leisure activities.   Both have a narrative element to them, whether it’s the story of an event, or how to do something from beginning to end.  The audiences for both are more or less peers.

They differ in their goals, and the kinds of stories that they tell and information resources use and create.

Interestingly, these areas often overlap, as apprentices learn techniques and stories from their predecessors and mentors. In this way, traditions and practices continue and evolve.

Both can benefit from using technology to tell stories and track revisions. And both are likely to be intertextual, linking to and drawing on existing resources.

This is not a technology design course; we do not expect students to build new technologies, although we will explore the space of potential designs to address emerging creative needs and directions.  We will, as far as possible, rely on existing technologies.   However, these will be treated as prototypes; we will ask how these (or similar) technologies could be better designed to suit the understandings that emerge from this course.

Students don’t necessarily need to be interested in either of these application areas.  We’ll treat these areas as examples.  Students may well bring to the course other areas of interest that share some of these key elements.

READING AREAS MAY INCLUDE (with varying degrees of depth and emphasis)

•    Visual studies: what it is; what it says about the role of visual media in general, and contemporary developments.  The relationships among still images, video, and audio.
•    Visual epistemology: the relationship between the visual and text
•    “Visual psychology” (for lack of a better term) – deciding when and how visual media are most effective for different communicative needs/desires
•    Multimodality
•    Narrative and storytelling
•    Objects as carriers of content and symbolic meaning
•    Issues of publicness and media – e.g., images are both more fraught and more evocative than text
•    Procedural teaching and learning


As noted, this is not a technology design course.  We will, as far as possible, rely on existing technologies.  However, existing technologies will be treated as prototypes; one issue will be how these (or similar) technologies could be better designed to suit the understandings that emerge from this course.

These will likely include:
•    Flickr and other photo (and video) sharing sites
•    YouTube and other video sharing sites
•    MemoryMiner or similar – software for constructing personal/family histories

This list is not exhaustive, but indicative.


•    Committed participation: reading and engaging with the course materials and topics
•    Some sort of major product:  probably a paper applying the concepts of he course to some area of interest.  One product could be a technology design: a prototype, or at least design requirements.

Spring I212 — Critical Technology Studies: Science and Technology Studies and Reflective HCI

Spring 09
M 1-4  (but see below)
Location: 202 South Hall
CCN: 42575 (3 units)

This spring’s I212 will combine an intro to science and technology studies (STS) with reflective Human-Computer Interaction(HCI).   The goal is to look at a variety of ways of understanding how people use, adapt, and domesticate information and communication technologies, and how these might affect HCI and ICT design.  We will look at a lot of both theoretical literature and practical studies.

This is *not* a technical class, but will instead focus on how to motivate and evaluate design from many perspectives. It’ll be useful for technology designers, but especially for students interested in expanding their understanding of the relevant literature and theoretical perspectives.

In this class, we’ll define both HCI and STS loosely.  HCI is concerned with the interaction between people and technology, and design that fits people’s practices and needs.  HCI has gradually expanded its scope to include more and more of the human sciences.  Reflective HCI seeks to surface the often-unstated assumptions and values embedded inn HCI.  Science and Technology Studies (STS) is a multi-disciplinary field rooted mostly in the social sciences, but also history and philosophy, that addresses the relationship between society and technology. Much of reflective HCI is rooted in STS.

We’ll look at alternative theories from STS and HCI but also from communications studies and related fields.  Exact topics will depend on who’s in the class and what our collective interests are.

Past offerings of this class have included students from computer science and other engineering departments, education, architecture, and other departments as well as the iSchool.

Because the topic and coverage of this course changes, people who have taken it before can get credit this year as independent or group study.

Syllabus from the last offering, 2006: — it was mostly PhD students (from the iSchool and elsewhere).  I expect this year it will have more master’s students and so more focus on what this means for design and professional practice.

Class will meet Mondays 1-4. However, we may be able to reschedule the course to fit the schedules of the students who actually enroll, so if you’re interested in the course, let me know.

Also let me know if you are interested in particular topics within this area  —  it’s useful to know if people have specific interests.

IVSA 2009 Conference Call

(I’ve excerpted from the longer call, which should appear shortly on the IVSA site.)

Clarification about the process: as I understand it (and as I recall from the 2007 conference), they try to organize panels and sessions by (1) asking people to propose panels and then (2) asking people to submit papers to/for specific panels; but papers that don’t fit can be submitted, too.

I organized a panel in 2007 on which Morgan Ames and I presented papers.  I directly invited some other people I knew to be doing relevant work who didn’t usually come to IVSA, and decided not to attend.  The conference organizers then sent the panel organizers the complete set of abstracts that had been submitted, for us to look for proposed papers that were (1) relevant and (2) of good quality, insofar as we could tell from the abstracts.  If I remember correctly, other people contacted me with directly later, with proposed papers.  So the panel ended up being a mix of people I knew and had invited, and people I didn’t know who submitted abstracts that I deemed appropriate.

I’m thinking about proposing a panel — haven’t decided what topic.


IVSA conference 2009, University of Cumbria, UK, July 22nd – 24th: 

‘Appreciating the views: how we’re looking at the social and visual landscape’

The 2009 International Visual Sociology Association conference will be held in the north-west UK region of Cumbria, probably better known as the English Lake District.  It’s being jointly hosted by the University of Cumbria and one of its Research Institutes, the Centre for Landscape and Environmental Arts Research (CLEAR).  The conference will address two interrelated main themes; of subject – Landscape and the Environment, and of approach – the varied methodologies of visual enquiry.


Call for Panels: Closing Date: 24th November 2008 (24.00 GMT)
Possible start points for panels might include:

Ideas and representations of the wild
Definitions of the urban and the rural
Visual dimensions in environmental politics
Changes in landscape use
Land based lives and occupations
Land based sports and activities
Landscape representation
Landscape and identity
Landscape as a representation of nationalism
Environment defined above concepts of nation
‘Act local think global’ – the politicised environment
Intersections between local and global landscape
Contested claims to the land – challenges to developments etc.
Landscape aesthetics and their appreciation – the sublime etc.
Landscape intervention – national parks etc.
Colonial and post-colonial mapping of identity
Landscape ideologies in advertising, film etc.
Creative interpretations of landscape and the environment

(This is of course not by any means an exhaustive list – remembering that we are a visually based organisation, we do actively expect ideas and themes which expand and enhance this kind of indicative perspective)

Panel organisers are expected to provide: a panel title, a 250 to 300 word summary / abstract expanding the intentions that inform their intended panel theme, their contact details, and a very brief simple identifying sentence on themselves / the panel chair. (i.e. “Attila is a project leader at the Pan-Asiatic Institute of Land Conquest, and has long standing research interests in travel and social anthropology”.

The full list of accepted panels and their organisers will appear on the IVSA website soon after this, along with the more detailed call for individual papers.

Call for Papers: First ‘open’ closing date: 19th January 2009 (24.00 GMT)

This first early date is intended to take account of the often extended administrative processes many academics face in seeking funding and approval for participation in events such as this. All papers received by this first date will be peer-reviewed, and responded to quickly. For those whose applications require consideration of publication the IVSA does run its own academic journal ‘Visual Studies’, and though all acceptance decisions rest with the editorial board suitably written up conference paper submissions in the visual field are encouraged and always welcomed.

Paper authors should provide a title for their paper, a 250 to 300 word abstract, any specific technical requirements, their contact details, and a brief identifying sentence on themselves (as in the call for panels above).

Paper submissions should be sent in the first instance to one of the nominated panel organisers. However, we will also plan space for a few general panels considering methodological, ethical and practical issues of good research, so should you feel your work is so individual that it cannot possibly fit any of the offered titles, you may send your submission as a word attachment in one email directly to Gordon Simpson and Karen Bassett …


Call for papers: Second ‘extended’ closing date: 28th April 2009 (24:00 GMT)

This second date is to allow scope for participation for those whose work may not be planned quite as far ahead as the ‘career academic’, such as the many postgraduate students working on projects which won’t be completed until later in the academic year – or of course those who may only come across the call for papers late. Submissions here will be subject to a quicker process of approval than full peer-review, and acceptance at this point will be subject to remaining available space within the conference schedule.

Paper authors should provide a title for their paper, a 250 to 300 word abstract, any specific technical requirements, their contact details, and a brief identifying sentence on themselves (as in the first call for papers above).

Second deadline submissions should be sent directly as a word attachment in one email to both to Gordon Simpson and Karen Bassett …

Multimodal Publishing

sophie logoI’ve recently been introduced to Sophie, software for creating “books” that incorporate text, images, video, and audio:

Sophie is software for writing and reading rich media documents in a networked environment. Sophie’s goal is to open up the world of multimedia authoring to a wide range of people and institutions and in so doing to redefine the notion of a book or “academic paper” to include both rich media and mechanisms for reader feedback and conversation in dynamic margins….Funded by grants from the Mellon and Macarthur foundations and the University of Southern California, Sophie is free and entirely open-source.

So far, I’ve only played with it a little. Friday I’m going to see the products of an archeology class that has used it — will write more then. The most serious limitation is that it requires its own reader, so it cannot (at this point, anyway) be used to produce “papers” on the web. But it looks intriguing. Well worth checking out.

Berkeley Center for New Media Gets Chair Endowed by Craigslist

BCNM logo The University of California, Berkeley, today (Thursday, Jan. 17) announced plans to establish the first endowed faculty chair at the Berkeley Center for New Media with a donation of $1.6 million from craigslist, one of the most popular Web sites in the world.The donation, which will support research, symposia and lectures, will be matched with $1.5 million from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for a total of $3.1 million. The matching funds come from the foundation’s landmark challenge grant, announced last September, that it gave to UC Berkeley to create 100 new endowed chairs. The new chairs are designed to help the public research university compete with private institutions.