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New Media and The Digital Natives – Reading Summary

Born Digital – John Palfrey

If you have any interest in Digital Natives – this 1 hour talk is very informative about what a digital native is, and the godfather of this topic, John Palfrey goes into great detail on his definition and how this generation will change the nature of how we see the internet in the future. It is a population of young people who are will impact they we think, work, and function on a day to day basis.

The Digital Natives are a group of people who are comfortable with sharing their daily lives on the net (ie flick, twitter, facebook) and were exposed to these technologies at a very young age. This population is typically born after 1980, have never known life without a computer, TV without a remote control, and never dialed on a rotary phone (not true since I was born after 1980!).

Presentation by John Palfrey – “As part of the Google D.C. Talks series, and in partnership with Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Professor John Palfrey offers a sociological portrait of “digital natives” — children who were born into and raised in the digital world — with a particular focus on their conceptions of online privacy.”

There are a few points he clarifies in this video  -

  • This is a POPULATION, not a GENERATION
  • Born after 1980 – because this is when the advent of technology began
  • They have access to these technologies
  • 1 billion who have access (number is low due to digital divide)
  • This is not a DUMMY generation – they are very tech savvy.
  • Young people are INTERACTING, but in a different way – remixed, made in a different way.
  • We must teach digital media literacy

We are Digital Natives – Barrett Lyon

“A new class of person has emerged in the online world: Digital Natives. While living in San Francisco, I also live on the Internet. The Internet is now a place: a two dimensional world that has transcended the web; there is no government, and the citizens are Digital Natives.”

Lyon’s main point is that people are no longer citizens of the United States, or France, but also citizens of the internet. There are specialized groups within these digital natives such as game players, hackers, developers, and the social etiquette that is involved is much different than the physical reality we live in.

Some people choose to define themselves by the activities they take part in on the web – such as social online movements – ie Green Movement, Tea/Coffee Party, which are branches from physical political movements, but these started on the net.

“This scares the crap out of Governments all over the world, because they are ill prepared to deal with these situations. To government regimes that are comfortable asserting their control, this concept is terrifying. How do they counteract the changes online and the movements? Do they need to change their politics, defense, propaganda, and warfare?”

This statement displays that some of these online movements do have an affect on how governments think about the web. Many countries have harsh restrictions on what their citizens can view on the net, ie China, Iran, etc.

The Future of The Internet and How to Stop it – Jonathan Zittrain – Short Summary

This title is actually a book that JZ has wrote which is actually available on amazon if anyone would like to purchase. His main point is that collaboration is key in the survival of a productive internet and cites wikipedia as the main example. The first generation of products that have spear headed the internet have been Tivo, Ipods, and Xboxes, which are tethered appliances, meaning they are using net as their connection to their content/databases.

“The Internet’s current trajectory is one of lost opportunity. Its salvation, Zittrain argues, lies in the hands of its millions of users. Drawing on generative technologies like Wikipedia that have so far survived their own successes, this book shows how to develop new technologies and social structures that allow users to work creatively and collaboratively, participate in solutions, and become true ‘netizens.’

New Media in (Outer) Space

New Media is certainly aiding man in its search for new frontiers. Beyond are some introductory readings/viewings to where are these efforts leading:

Required Reading/Viewing:

  • Vint Cerf explains the origins and basics of the Interplanetary Internet Project (3 very short videos)
  1. Node
  2. Frequency
  3. Standarization

Recommended Reading:

Optional:

Music/Video Mashups: What’s at Stake?

I apologize for the late post last week, here it was again in case you missed it>

One person’s copyright infringement is another person’s creative expression.” – Michela Ledwidge

Yesterday, when disco and hip-hop DJs of New York City were sampling different songs and weaving them together using different parts, instrumentals, vocal clips, and more, they originally had to acquire the vinyl record through legally purchasing it… unless someone was generous enough to give them the records that he or she did not want (Hunsicker, 2010).  Now a days, one can easily circumvent the economic laws of copyright and even purchasing property with the internet.  Peer-to-peer sharing and other video sites such as Youtube make viral proliferation of content and information easy as 1-2-3.  That being the case, copyright dilemmas have continued to grow in this digital age where consumers users are fighting back against the few, elite hegemonic powers and authorities who control so much of today’s intellectual and artistic content/property.

Furthermore, the economic system of music and online videos have greatly been affected by the popularity of music, file, and other video sharing websites.  This phenomenon has changed the way in which consumers people legally buy or illegally distribute music and other video content on the internet.  Besides, everyone is becoming their own DJ or mashup artist given the customizable playlists, sampling technologies, and other ways of individually tailoring someone else’s music to suit your own desires.  Hunsicker further asserts, “Not only is music more convenient to listen to, it also feels more personal, your own mix that you can be proud of.  With the right equipment, everyone can be a DJ.”

With regards to more or less music, artists like Girl Talk, DJ Danger Mouse, DJ Shadow, and many others have found Grey areas or ways to navigate outside the legal confines of copyright laws.  While there are those who would argue that these artists have infringed heavily upon copyright laws, others would defend them arguing that the very proprietary laws which protect certain artists, stifle other artists from re-appropriating it into something new.  Hunsicker proposes a comprise between copyrights and mashup artists:

What a mash-up artist is doing is taking DJing to a whole new level, they are creating entire new tracks, using pieces of a whole to create new songs.  There is an argument for a fair amount of creativity here, but the artist did not create each of the clips.  This is where there needs to be a compromise!  Laws need to be revised, so that a certain percentage of the royalties could be paid to the record companies, not in full, and so that the mash-up artist may be motivated to pay while still receiving individual benefits for his songs.

Okay, so what’s the big deal one might ask? What’s at stake?

“Basically, the music industry is slipping towards anarchy , and the record companies are trying to keep control of their revenue streams,” said Professor Sam Howard-Spink, professor of music copyright law at Steinhart School of Media, Culture, and Communications at New York University.  It has been widely accredited that the artist Girl Talk, a.k.a. Gregg Gillis, is a famous mash-up artist who uses an average of 21 music clips per song. If he paid, the cost would average $260,000 per song and $4.2 million per album according to “RiP: A Remix Manifesto.”

Where is the line drawn between mashups/remixing and stealing?  For many, the answer seems to lie in giving credit to the original.  Still, many would go further and ask for some sense of monetary compensation for using the original.  Obviously, being sued by someone for copyright infringement is the greatest risk at stake.  But then, how do artists like Girl Talk or DJ Danger Mouse find “legal loopholes” or ‘getting away’ with creating some of the most successful and acclaimed mashups to date?  According to a blog article from GENYU.NET, “This success does not go unnoticed by the music business—mash-ups are so popular online that the music industry has become more selective with their legal attacks, looking for a way to harness this genre without the legal complications.”

More artists are recognizing the potential in releasing their music or videos to the public for marketing purposes to create mashup contests.  This is an amazing way in which the public can participate in remixing/mashing up the artist’s original work and being recognized for it with a monetary prize or other awards.  For example, K-OS, a critically acclaimed Canadian hip-hop artist, released his last album to the public creating a remix contest.  He then released the remixed album containing the best remixes for sale on iTunes and throughout other music distributors sites.

Be careful Youtube (Google)?

>Lastly, since 2007 Viacom has accused Youtube (Now Google) of profiting from thousands of videos in a whopping 1 billion dollar lawsuit.  The impending future implications that the resulting lawsuit could have for not only Youtube but for copyright and mashup culture in general are vital.  Greg Sandoval, writing for CNET News online states,

“There’s a lot at stake, including the $1 billion damage amount Viacom seeks. Depending on how the dispute is decided, it could mean content-sharing on the Web will be far more restricted than now. On the other hand, for film studios, music labels, and other content creators, a Viacom loss could mean protecting copyright online becomes much more expensive and labor-intensive.”

In a bitter legal war, both Google and YouTube will have until April 30th to file motions for a summary judgment (basically the judge reviews the evidence on both sides and determines whether the case has enough merit to go to trial or not).  After that, then they would likely set a trial date for later this year.

Then why do it?

Because we live in an society enveloped by various juxtapositions of power and control that are constantly challenged such as the  rich vs. poor; open source vs. close source; creative commons vs. copyright; pay vs. pirate; etc.  DJ Danger Mouse exclaimed about the Grey Album (2004), a highly acclaimed mashup of The Beatles White Album and Jay Z’s Black album acapellas:

“A lot of people just assume I took some Beatles and, you know, threw some Jay-Z on top of it or mixed it up or looped it around, but it’s really a deconstruction. It’s not an easy thing to do. I was obsessed with the whole project, that’s all I was trying to do, see if I could do this. Once I got into it, I didn’t think about anything but finishing it. I stuck to those two because I thought it would be more challenging and more fun and more of a statement to what you could do with sample alone. It is an art form. It is music. You can do different things, it doesn’t have to be just what some people call stealing. It can be a lot more than that…This wasn’t supposed to happen… I just sent out a few tracks (and) now online stores are selling it and people are downloading it all over the place.” Burton denied being the agent provocateur, saying it “was not my intent to break copyright laws. It was my intent to make an art project.”

In a day called “Grey Tuesday” coordinated on February 24, 2004, Downhill Battle, an activist group, posted copies of Danger Mouse’s The Grey Album for free download on various participating websites in protest of EMI’s, a record company that ordered cease and desist of the mashup album.

Here’s this week’s mashup that I put together. Enjoy >

Thanks to/References:

A Few Good Men (1992); And Justice for All (1979); The Matrix (1999); Braveheart (1995); Lawrence Lessig; Training Day (2001); and Copyright Criminals (2009), Outkast+Queen Mashup from VillexHermannixValo.  Hopefully, my own mashup falls under the Fair Use Doctrine under educational use/criticism/teaching purposes.



Simulation of museums?

To inquire further on the future of museums (and to answer to Nadine’s question) here is a video explaining a project that Google is organizing with the most famous museums around the world.

The original idea came out of a statement: most of the time visitors come out of a famous museum frustrated. They feel their experience was tarnished by the crowd, they did not get to see a masterpiece as weel as they wanted or they did not spend enough time watching it…

Why not providing visitors with a second chance to enjoy Art on the Web?

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Siva Vaidhyanathan is on WNYC right now talking about Google leaving China

Tune in online if you can! http://www.wnyc.org/shows/bl/episodes/2010/03/24

Travelogue 3 Conclusion: It’s up to YOU to develop Living Stories

LIVING STORIES: What is it?

These past several weeks I decided to investigate Google’s experimental interface for experiencing news online called – Living Stories.  From December of 2009 – February 2010, it experimented by utilizing the help of The NYTimes and The Washington Post to find out if people preferred and enjoyed this new way of experiencing online news.  Since the experiment, there has been a growing optimism with the future of possibilities of how it could change the nature and interface of online news.

Watch the video to understand what exactly is Living Stories:

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Open Sourcing Living Stories:  What happened to it?

Around the time that I started to research it, Google went ahead and announced that they were open sourcing it to the public in hopes that people would find their own unique ways to develop and implement it.  So, my focus revolved around the question of, Who and what were developing the newly open sourced Living Stories???” This question lead me to dig around the website, Google Blog, online articles, and the discussion forum in hopes to find out who were some people besides Google’s guinea pigs (The NYTimes and The Washington Post: two of the most heralded newspapers in the US) that were trying to cultivate the program on their own…

According to Google, Living Stories was preferred over reading traditional news formats by 75 % of the people surveyed.  It was considered a success and so with that, Google released it to the public on February 17th, as an open source code.  Therefore, I set out to find out more about the silent success of this amazing new concept for online news.  Here is a recapitulation of my focal points for investigation:

“There are times when silence has the loudest voice” – Leroy Brownlow

  • My research and journey will be to figure out what I’m able to on where the project is going since its release to the public.  I have already contacted some owners of the experiment from Google that were in charge of Living Stories and even some people at the New York Times and the Washington Post to see what they are continuing to do with the format.
  • In addition, I will try to seek out some developers who are working with it to see what they have been able to do with it.
  • Lastly, I will also attempt to contact various news agencies and inquire about whether or not they would implement such a format to their online site.

What was I able to find out it… It’s hibernating for now

After sending out several emails to some leads that I garnered perusing around the discussion forum for Living Stories, I was able to get a hold and interview Neha Singh, software engineer for Google and another person, using a pseudonym  Eugene, at Nature Publishing Group who is attempting to develop it further for an online scientific articles like those of Naturenews.

Eugene told me that, “We’re looking at experimenting with it to show both science news and the human stories behind important scientific discoveries published in the journal”.  He was enthusiastic about working to develop the code despite running into a couple minor problems with content manager timing out, but for the most part, was hoping to develop a time line interface of historical articles with the same topic.

Mr. Singh was pretty helpful in taking the time to answer my questions, but could not divulge any information that would lead me to developers or other people who might be working on the code.  He also couldn’t provide me any contacts from the NYTimes or the Washington Post without their permission.  All he could tell me was mostly the same information that he had written on the official Google Blog nor could he answer (which I assumed) some harder questions like – Was this a political move to develop better relations with news companies and the general public by open sourcing it? He could not comment.

Another lingering question was whether or not Google’s decision to open source the code for Living Stories was planned from the beginning or was it something that was considered after the experiment was over.  After verifying the Living Stories blog post from December when it originally started and the answer that I received from Neha, I learned that Google’s intentions from the start were to open source it after the experiment finished.

Paul Bradshaw, of the online journalism blog, on his report of Google’s Living stories.  Bradshaw asks two very important questions that I thought were worthy of including>>
  • How much of the construction of the page is done automatically, and how much requires someone to input and connect data?

This question addresses the extent and ingenuity behind the code itself.  The code creates an interface that allows for an updated version of the stories to continue to funnel down the page with several key features to choose from along the sides e.g “most popular”.  However, from talking to Eugene, he did mention that the content manager kept timing out.  So I would presume that the construction of the page is formatted somewhat automatically, but also needing someone to input and connect further stories of course.  From what I did find out about some of its features, it is capable of filtering out information that you (as a reader) have previously read and highlighting what information is new.

  • How does this address the advertising problem?

Of course, advertising is very important for publishers.  There were no advertisements on Living Stories as of yet, but publishers who adopt it could potentially post advertisements alongside the articles.  While Google announced its revenue sharing project with publishers with Fast Flip, it should be able to equally implement advertisements for revenue purposes with Living Stories “if” publishers decide to appropriate it. 

Conclusions and a lingering curiosity:

I was holding out a little longer because I was hoping to get a response from a contact at the NYTimes.  Unfortunately, he didn’t respond to my email, but if he replies in the next couple of days I’ll post an update on Living Stories. I believe that this experimental new format for online news raises some interesting questions about the simple but profound reality that it is open source.  Moreover, the silence does speak volumes based off of the fact that it was a success according to Google and their pervading optimism.  Although I wasn’t able to find out much with how people are developing the code, I would be remiss if I did not believe that we have seen the last of Living Stories. I really want to know what the NYTimes and The Washington Post are doing with it.

For one thing, profit is the driving force behind businesses and so I wonder how using the free open source Living Stories format would compare with something like the Times Reader 2.0 where the reader pays a weekly subscription of $3.45?

HAVE YOU MET AARDVARK?

What is Aardvark?

Aarkvard is a new social network that enables user to mobilize the skills of their social network to answer any of their questions from the most random (where to go to grab a good coffee in NYC?) to the most specific (What is Y. Benkler’s view on Open Source?).

The concept is based on the idea that asking someone will allow you to make the most of the Internet by obtaining the most trust worthy answer to your question.

Aardvark’s Ambition: being an alternative to Wikipedia, and the search engines based on algorithms.

Why did I have decided to look at it?

While many of us are already using a lot of social networks (Facebook etc…) I was curious to discover what could be the real input of this new tool? What would convince people to actually spend time using it…

As much as I was skeptical about this new tool, the very recent purchase of Aardvark by Google (for around $50 millions) convinced me that it should be worth it to inquire further…

And here we go! I signed in (almost 3 weeks ago) on their website vark.com.

Results of my first approach: MOSTLY DISAPPOINTING!

  • To be asked, your questions have to fit in certain requirements. Your question has to
    • be short
    • contain meaningful key words
  • I obtained relevant answers but the most interesting one contained a link to Wikipedia!
  • After a few days a lost interest in Aardvark and almost forgot that it was an option to find my way through the net.
  • Even if the answers I got were accurate and very useful, I had the feeling that Aardvark seemed to be far to be replacing Wikipedia or Google!

However I had to give it another try (for the sake of my travelogue at least)!

Looking for information I learnt that at first, Aardvark was not a website but something design to be added on IM. What if I had been turned of by their new website?

On my Gmail account I decided to install Aardvark on my Gchat contacts to make the full experience.

Results of my second approach: I discovered a new aspect of this social network that made me reconsider it. Here are some inputs of having aardvark embedded on your e-mail account:

  • No need to go on another website to ask a question.
  • Aardvark appears as a random contact, it is not pushy.
  • You can ask any question that goes through your head faster.
  • You do not have to worry about the format of your questions which you have to do to obtain a satisfying answer from any search engine.

Meanwhile, by connecting to Aardvark I discovered that my friend Harlo was actually an active user of this network. She uses it on a regular basis for about a month now and seems to be pretty happy about it. Talking to her made me realized that the Aardvark might actually have a real input: achieving to mobilize the appropriate person to answer to your specific question.

Indeed the real input of Aardvark relies on the information that their users feed about them. Each user feeds at least its gender, date of birth and location. And of course the more information you give about you and your “topics” of interest the more interesting this new tool turns out to be.

Using those data, Aardvark can determine who are the experts that are the most likely to provide a good answer.

Those 2 features regarding users’ profiles settings give a real advantage to Aardvark to compete with Google or Wikipedia… At least it is the reason why now I am almost converted to my new buddy!

Aardvark case, back in the game!

Being a neophyte in the Web 2.0 world, when I became aware of this new network was to freak out : How can they pretend and make me believe that complete strangers to me will answer to all of my questions? I obviously got scared and attacked the computers in general (lol)

Both Dan and Mushon’s comments put me back on the right track. I was focusing on the wrong question regarding Aardvark. After all, Aardvark is just a new search engine, an alternative to Google, mobilizing people’s knowledge.

Indeed while most of search engines’ results rely on the Internet, Aardvark rely on people. It taps on your preexisting network of friends (by connecting with Facebook, your email account etc…)

The correct question would have been:

Aardvark, a trustworthy alternative to Google, Yahoo and Wikipedia ? Arkvaard versus Google?

I have to admit that my travelogue got me confused: as much as I was enthusiastic when I discovered it (enough to start my travelogue on it!), I was completely turned off by my user experience in the “long run”. Even if some specific answers were interesting there was nothing catchy. And reading strangers’ answers did not really raise my interest! Especially when those strangers send you a link to Wikipedia!

What do they think Aardvark’s input is then?

Looking for more information, I have learned that at the very beginning Aardvark was not a website it was just something you could put over IM and that enabled you to let your network of friends know that you were looking for an answer. But now that it is super easy to create an account on their web interface, anyone can answer your question.

So how are the answers you get supposed to be more reliable?

I am still wondering and will come up with an answer soon!

Google’s Living Stories is in a Coma at the Moment

While I have tried to seek out people who are currently trying to develop Google’s code of Living Stories I was able to interview Neha Singh, software engineer for Google and another person, we will call him Eugene, at Nature Publishing Group who is attempting to develop it further.  There is a huge silence surrounding this code if in fact it was such a success that Google found it to be.  Digging around the forum and discussion group, I was able to find Eugene and inquire about how he is working on the code:

Eugene pointed me to some scientific news stories for an online journal at Naturenews.  “We’re looking at experimenting with it to show both science news and the human stories behind important scientific discoveries published in the journal,” said Eugene.  He went on to comment about the code itself and the problems that he encountered with it.  Apparently, installing and getting the code running was pretty straightforward, however, the content manager kept timing out a lot.  “I do like the possibility of applying the system to stories that have already happened though I guess they’re not “living” any more. Living Stories is a good way to browse any sort of narrative, see the people involved, browse relevant media etc.  The default content manager makes this as difficult as possible, unfortunately – to put in dates from say 1950, so you have to do a lot of clicking on a popup date widget, you can’t just type in the year.”  It was interesting to hear how Eugene was trying to use it almost like a historical and categorical reference tool along the lines of what libraries use.  This reminds me of the historical overview that wikipedia has on many topics.  The difference would be that you would have a historical time line of scholarly articles using the Living Stories interface.

Back to Google’s representative – Neha Singh>>

Neha answered a lot of my questions, but couldn’t really answer the harder ones.  To my understanding, he has to be careful with what he divulges to the public.  For example here are a couple harder questions that were asked,

1.  How does Google benefit from this type of investiture?

Our interest is in helping journalism thrive in the digital era, because it’s important to society and an important source of the high-quality information our users turn to us to find. We’re doing the Living Stories project to learn about creating more engaging experiences for consumers of news online

2.  Because Google has been deemed by some as an aggregation thief of news, was the open sourcing of this, to some degree, a  political move in a way to win over the hearts of the publishers and people?

Cannot comment.

3.  What are those two news companies doing with it at this point since they were the two main guinea pigs for the experiment?  Are they continuing to develop it on their own?

They are currently evaluating how they want to proceed.

4.  Could you give me some contacts of people who I can talk to at the NYTimes or The Post to ask them some questions about it?

I would have to ask for their permission first. So it will take some time.

5.  Is there a list or a distribution list of developers that you released it to?

We just announced it on the Google open source blog.  You would have to solicit replies on the discussion forum.
Ok, it looks like I wasn’t able to get the harder answers out of him, but they do insinuate a sense that Google is trying to help out the traditional journalism’s journey to the online environment.  I’m kinda skeptical at such a benevolent approach without any financial incentive.  Maybe that’s why Google open sourced it in the first place.  I do wonder if Google was paid by the NYTimes and The Post for their help in creating such a format.  Yet, this wouldn’t be that plausible based on the fact that they open sourced it. 

One of the biggest questions that I tried to focus on was whether or not Google’s decision to open source the code for Living Stories was planned from the beginning or was it something that was considered after the experiment was over.  Mr. Singh had informed me that, “Open sourcing the code was the logical next stage of the experiment and was always planned. From the beginning, we had said that hosting the stories on Google Labs was temporary. We want to help interested news publishers cover stories this way on their own websites. The Times and Post had teams of reporters publishing through the Living Stories format for over two months, which helped us collect a lot of data and feedback, and improve the code.“  I confirmed his statement, by checking the Google News Blog, which had indicated back in December, when Google started the experiment, that they were going to release it to the public after the experiment was finished.  This could have a tremendous impact on the way people search for news online based on the topic.  Google News aggregates and filters the topical search, but it still takes you to the traditional news article that has stayed the same for quite sometime now.  The topic of the article would be the key ingredient rather than the publisher or article itself.  Moreover, “If you look at search behaviour, that’s often what people search for (and why Wikipedia is so popular), declares  Paul Bradshaw, of the online journalism blog, on his report of Google’s Living stories.  Bradshaw asks two very important questions that many are wondering (if you decide to peruse through the discussion forum of Google’s Living Stories).

  1. How much of the construction of the page is done automatically, and how much requires someone to input and connect data?
  2. How does this address the advertising problem?

What advertising problem you ask?  Well, d3vianted@gmail.com articulates this well in the discussion forum:

Publishers want to drive people to their sites in hopes of attaining ad impressions.  Thus the “free” content they are giving away is providing some source of income.  As more and more papers see a decline in readership and their sales decline, the money their make from their online products is becoming more and more important. Living Stories takes away any ability for the publisher to direct traffic to their sites (other than name recognition and the hopeful conversion of a curious reader) or provide any support for advertisers.  Publishers would be producing content with no ROI [return on investment] simply for the convenience Google’s users.

A counter solution to this payment for content problem has just been announced by Google’s competitor Bing.  Apparently Bing is trying to help UK newspapers better monetize their online news.  Here’s the article.

Lastly, it would have taken more time to generate the contacts at the NYTimes and The Washington Post to inquire where they are taking the project at this point.  Mr. Singh could only tell me that, “They are currently evaluating how they want to proceed.”  Even if this statement foreshadows the vague undertones that surround the future of this project, it does however, imply that Living Stories is something that we could see changing the way that we consume and experience news online in the future – however long this might be.

Travelogue 3: Who is & What is developing with “Living Stories”?

December 09′ to Feburary 10′

Journalism has undergone a crisis in the past several years and so has the news that has followed it.  The ‘digital future of news’ is currently shaping the future of how we stay informed and connected to what’s going on in our world.  The internet with online news updates possesses the remarkable capacity to change the way we read news.  Moreover, news agencies have tried very hard to adapt to the changing climate of media within this digital era that has been underway for quite some time now.  Nevertheless, the multi-billion dollar corporation Google has once again tried to revolutionize the internet.  From December of 2009 – February 2010, it sought to experiment with the way people experienced the news online.  Since the experiment, there has been much optimism with how it could change the nature and interface of online news.

“We believe it’s just as important to experiment with how news organizations can take advantage of the web to tell stories in new ways — ways that simply aren’t possible offline.”  - Official Google Blog

So Google decided to team up with two of the most world renowned news organizations: The  News York Times and The Washington Post to see how they could develop a way in which  people could better experience reading the news online.  Like mad scientists (engineers) stuck in  some lab in Mountain View, California they created their own version of Frankenstein… they  called it “LIVING STORIES“.  It’s aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive!!!  Essentially, it is  a “new format/interface for creating and consuming news online”.    Everyday the news of a particular topic or story would be covered or    reside  under one URL with a summary explaining a general overview with live updates of new material in a timeline format, which would give offer readers,  ”a different online approach to balancing the overview [of a topic/or story] with depth and context”.

On the other hand of the debate, Google has been looked at with a great deal of animosity and dislike because of how it devalues the content on the web.  Matt Asay posted one particular comment by Wall Street Journal managing editor Robert Thomson, to call into question this widespread attitude against Google:

Google devalues everything it touches. Google is great for Google, but it’s terrible for content providers, because it divides that content quantitatively rather than qualitatively. And if you are going to get people to pay for content, you have to encourage them to make qualitative decisions about that content.

Nevertheless, the question abounds to why Google would do such a seemingly benevolent thing to help out publishers and news agencies.  What is the underlying rationale or motive for helping the news agencies?  Yet, The NYTimes for example are welcoming the help from Google.  It appears as if the news agencies are following the age old adage, ‘if you can’t beat em’, join em’.  The NYTimes and The Washington Post have worked on a collaborative effort with Google so it doesn’t seem like their was any negative feelings towards each other.  It seems a big brother helping out his younger brother.  While Google has had its fair share of criticism, the NYTimes for example is trying to take its own journalistic endeavors and combine them with the ingenuity of Google.  ”It’s an experiment with a different way of telling stories,” said Martin A. Nisenholtz, senior vice president for digital operations of The New York Times Company, in a statement. “I think in it, you can see the germ of something quite interesting.”

February 10′ and Beyond

On February 17th, Google decided to open-source the code to see what people and developers can do with it.  My question and curiousity, which is basically Google’s question too, is – what are people doing with the code other than making bug fixes here and there?  In other words, How are people utilizing and improving the open-source code of Living Stories?

  • My research and journey will be to figure out what I’m able to on where the project is going since its release to the public.  I have already contacted some owners of the experiment from Google that were in charge of Living Stories and even some people at the New York Times and the Washington Post to see what they are continuing to do with the format.
  • In addition, I will try to seek out some developers who are working with it to see what they have been able to do with it.
  • Lastly, I will also attempt to contact various news agencies and inquire about whether or not they would implement such a format to their online site.

In our recent weekly readings on Travelogue 3, we saw a different viewpoint on collectivism and open source.  I wonder if this would contribute to a loss of authorship or a degradation in the quality of content.  Or would it turn into “mush” as Jaron Lanier wrote about:

Actually, Silicon Valley is remarkably good at not making collectivization mistakes when our own fortunes are at stake. If you suggested that, say, Google, Apple and Microsoft should be merged so that all their engineers would be aggregated into a giant wiki-like project—well you’d be laughed out of Silicon Valley so fast you wouldn’t have time to tweet about it. Same would happen if you suggested to one of the big venture-capital firms that all the start-ups they are funding should be merged into a single collective operation.  But this is exactly the kind of mistake that’s happening with some of the most influential projects in our culture, and ultimately in our economy.

Well Mr. Lanier, it seems as if Google did just that.  It created something and released it to the public for a ‘collective action’ to implement and improve upon the original test design.  If Lanier is correct in his assertion, than Living Stories would turn out to be a mistake in the long run.  However, I don’t think that this will be the case.  I believe that it will only be a matter of time before online news slowly transforms into this type of interface.  Only time will tell.  But for now, I’ll have to find out where the public is taking this “creative monster”.  Stay tuned for more “living updates”…