His two cents, her geekhood, bite-sized content


The sleepy lion shown above provides was penned by author and web publisher Doug Millison, whose current interests incline toward graphic novels and animal consciousness. Doug has been teaching himself to draw, with visible success, and now with the zeal of the newly-converted he urges “citizen journalists, or wanna-be professionals” to add drawing to their repertoire of skills development. Why? Because it allows us to interpret the visual world in ways that personalize the perception. All the digital cameras in the world can’t do that.

It’s an interesting thought and I’d like to add my own twist.

 But first let me give you the gist of Doug’s note:

“When a journalist can capture a digital recording of an interview with unerring accuracy, take digital photos by the dozen, link to resources on the Web, etc., the real value a person brings to the task comes from what these digital devices and infrastructure can’t do.

“By learning to sketch, I can bring that same personal interpretation and contextualization to image capture and creation – giving me an ability to produce images that nobody else can produce. It’s the depth of personal experience that . . .  people are looking for when they search for something new and, they hope, satisfying on the internet.

“Thus, the hope for citizen journalism, or whatever you want to call it, remains, as long as the story-telling instinct survives.”

I agree. People can’t compete with machine-based visualization. We have to add the nuance. Alas I am not going to try to draw. But for those who learn to express themselves visually, the biggest opportunity I see lies in the creation of single-frame or short-form cartoons. They’re quick to ingest; easy to pass around; perfect examples of what Wired recently dubbed “Snack Culture.”

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Appetite for outtakes? Here’s a snippet that appropos of content that is easily consumable. MediaPost reports that Hearst Magazines will use an IPTV technology from Maven Networks to display what I gather are audio-visual outtakes and other content that would other otherwise fall on the cutting room floor. But now this new arangement will allow Hearst (I work for a Hearst-owned newspaper) to provide extra treats to fans of some of its popular titles. MediaPost says:

“Maven’s system enables media companies and content owners to syndicate their own video content . . . Hearst’s Internet video channel for TeenMag.com is live with a branded video player. Over the next 90 days, Hearst will launch 12 video sites, each with video players to support magazine titles that include Good Housekeeping, Esquire, and Cosmopolitan . . .  The video content will include behind-the-scenes footage from cover shoots, red carpet video, product reviews, recipes, hair-and-makeup “how tos,” user-generated video, and more. Opportunities exist to run interstitial and pre-roll video ads near the player.”

The Maven press release says its technology “has now been adopted by over 500 major media company affiliates to power their online video distribution and advertising businesses.” This is but one of many areas in which I lack the knowledge to make any judgment on the merits of this versus other competing systems but as a long-form writer I do not relish the thought of competing for attention with snippets of Paris Hilton being too naughty for print.

Aw, well, there’s always drawing!

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She doesn’t look all that geeky: Kristin Abkemeier (shown above) is a writer, artist and physicist who took a writing class with me once upon a time. She started her own blog called Radioactive Banana but these days is spending more time contributing to the She’s Such a Geek blog — following on the book of the same name.

The book is the brainchild of Annalee (Techsploitation) Newitz and Charlie Anders and it consists of essays from two dozen woman drawn to technology, science fiction and other endeavors loosely described as geeky.

Other than serving as an outlet for self-expression, the book and blog are meant to inspire and attract women to technology and science. I attended a book reading some weeks ago at Modern Times bookstore and one of the essay authors, Mill College computer science professor Ellen Spertus invited some friends from Google, who promised to help promote the book and its theme of women-in-sciences.

On that score I recorded an interesting note that arose as a question from a woman in the audience: why is it that there is a gender divide in sciences in the United States when there is not such a role split overseas. The woman was sitting next to me and looked to be from the Indian subcontinent, and she said there was not the case back home. Another man in the back of the room, who also looked to be of South Asian descent, echoed that comment. And one of the essayists, Corie Ralston  a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a science-fiction author, said that when she traveled to Italy to work on a large physics project, half of the scientists there were women. I got the impression this was not the case at her lab in Berkeley. But why the U.S. might have a gender gap in tech fields to the exclusion of other nations simply wasn’t explained. Or maybe I was deaf to it.

The book and blog are examples of editorial products aimed at niches audiences organized around values — in this case gender equity and opportunity in science. The book was published by Seal Press “founded in 1976 to provide a forum for women writers and feminist issues.” So the niche marketing isn’t new. Maybe now the views will spread faster. At least that’s the hope.

Meanwhile, Kristin inscribed my copy of the book with a mathematical formula that I am unable to even write out here, much less comprehend. But she told me it was an important constant involving the concept of pi. I looked it up this morning, just to be sure I had it right, and sure enough found a blog entry that had depicted the same formula she scribbled in my book, along with this sentence: “One simple equation relating the five most important constants in all of mathematics!”

Ah, now I can rest, knowing that the five constants are unified.