Making audio and video more interactive online (?)

Making audio and video more interactive online (?)

I spent an interesting day at a Digital Storytelling Unconference last weekend, out at the Network Hub in New Westminster’s impressive River Market. [Thanks to Raul and Denim and Steel for the ticket.] One of the most surprising things for me was how many different professions it brought together — game designers, educators, urban planners, etc. — all with their own cultures and skills around storytelling. So, concepts like detail and tension in narrative that are well-trod in journalism were being explored with new eyes and vocabulary. Meanwhile, I got my mind a little blown by things I know very little about but find fascinating — like storytelling and interactive dialogue in videogames (in talks by Todd and Deirdra, respectively). In all, it felt like the beginning of many more conversations to come. Interactive audio + video? I was lucky enough to facilitate a discussion about interactive video and audio online; what works and where it might go. This is something I’m currently thinking about at work, on two fronts. First, we create a lot of audio and video every day (for radio and TV, of course) and only a fraction of it ends up on our site in a way that it can be found, shared and discussed, because of the effort it takes to translate the radio and TV into text-based stories. For me, when I report a story and it doesn’t end up online, it feels as though it never happened. So how could we post more, well? Second, I wonder whether the audio and video we do post could be more interactive, or evolve somehow...
Digital Playground #2: Soundcloud as annotated audio

Digital Playground #2: Soundcloud as annotated audio

Continuing to play with digital storytelling tools… This time, SoundCloud. It’s designed for sharing music, and that’s how I encountered it. But I’ve been thinking about other uses for the timed commenting feature, which lets you link your comment to any second of the track you choose. Many comments on tracks are pretty, well, boring: “sick beats!” “nice one m8” etc. But I wonder about the potential of the timed comment as a storytelling tool. A type of annotation for audio on the web, where the online audio isn’t just delivered differently from old-school radio but also has an added interactive or explanatory dimension. Some possibilities: tag an interview clip, with a link to the person’s website, or the raw interview tag dated information with a link to updated information if the service supported it, tag a verbal description to a picture or map So I gave it a go, uploading one of my recent stories (albeit a longish one, 7+ minutes) about crowd-sourcing money for scientific research in the recent #SciFund Challenge. I added some comments with updates on how much money the projects received, and links to learn more. Does it work? I’d love to hear from you. As a radio addict, I’m not sure it does. I usually listen when I’m on the go (not at the screen) so I’m not sure I’d get much out of my favourite shows annotating their stuff. Maybe I’d want to see it on shorter pieces? On a topic I’m researching? Something educational? Hmm…. Don’t get me wrong, I have huge appreciation for the power and intimacy of radio (in whatever delivery...
Canada’s beef-is-safe campaign, circa 2003

Canada’s beef-is-safe campaign, circa 2003

The main purpose of this post is to put up a neat graph from my Masters thesis project seven years ago, mostly because I want to refer to it elsewhere. Please read on for the backstory, or if you are interested in political rhetoric about science (or to see a pic of Jean Chretien gnawing on beef). My thesis was on risk communication, using mad cow disease as a case study. I looked at the language and sources used in news articles to discuss the safety of Canadian beef after Canada’s first mad cow was found in May 2003. I remember that day vividly. It was my first summer at CBC, and I was interning at Quirks & Quarks in Toronto. As soon as the news broke across the wires, producers from The Current in the next room were buzzing about what to put on tomorrow’s show. Quirks, a weekly show, was deciding what people would want to know by Saturday about it. As It Happens was also chasing experts on the topic. The name on everyone’s lips was Dr. Neil Cashman, a Canadian neuroscientist who specializes in prion diseases, including bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as mad cow disease. As the summer progressed, BSE remained a major national story, mostly because the U.S. had banned Canadian beef, leaving cattle producers without a major source of income. There was a huge SARS benefit concert in Toronto that summer, but I remember dubbing it “Beef-stock” because of the amount of Canadian beef promotion, including a city block-long aisle of BBQ. I wrote about it at the time: Veteran comedians...
How (Should) Journalists Use Social Media

How (Should) Journalists Use Social Media

This weekend at the Northern Voice conference, Kirk LaPointe from The Vancouver Sun and I spoke on a panel called “How (Should) Journalists Use Social Media.” The visuals I used, created using a new-to-me online tool called Prezi, are posted online here. I won’t recount the whole thing, but here’s a couple of key ideas I talked about. Social media makes my city smaller Smaller, more interesting, perhaps even more friendly. In my talk, I told a story about my first job at CBC: a short-term stint as CBC Radio’s Nelson bureau reporter. There, it was a lot easier for the public to reach me, if they wanted to. No security desk, no switchboard in Toronto, just a one-room office and the phone number was in the book. In a big city newsroom like CBC Vancouver, it’s very different. It would be easy (though not smart) to avoid “the audience” almost completely. In my opinion, good journalists don’t — with or without social media. I use tools like Twitter to reach out beyond the people I would otherwise know, to get to know my city better. My networks are bigger, and that makes my city smaller. Social media as “social scanner” So, if you see something on Twitter, do you go report it on air? No, of course not. It’s like a police scanner to me. People who work in news sometimes listen to chatter on the police scanner to find out what’s happening. A fire in Coquitlam. A fatal MVA in Abbotsford. Just because you hear it, doesn’t mean you immediately go on air with it. You need...
Shrinking my city with social media

Shrinking my city with social media

I’m going to be speaking at the Northern Voice conference this weekend, joining Kirk LaPointe from the Vancouver Sun on a panel called “How (Should) Journalists Use Social Media”. One of the tricky things in trying to prepare my presentation is that the subject matter is my job, but this is supposed a “Personal Blogging and Social Media Conference” — something the conference organizers reminded speakers about, oh, five or six times. So, what to do? Well, quite a few people are talking about their jobs, actually. Take uber-science communicator David Ng for example. Science is his work, but it looks like his Northern Voice talk will be a human take on the world he works in, and a project he’s passionate about. And that’s what I’ll be aiming for. Using social media as a journalist is guided for me by personal interest and my own judgement of where lines are that shouldn’t be crossed, not just by CBC corporate policy. [See below for more discussion of this point] If you’re at Northern Voice, maybe you’ll check it out. Or, just say hi in the atrium. Update: We discussed this a bit in my talk, and I’d like to add in text here what I said there. I am mindful of CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices, and know I could be called on by my bosses to defend anything I write online. But the official rules haven’t kept up with the changing technology and ways of working, so I have to use my own judgement to decide how to apply them to new situations. And, I use social media...