Week 5 – Data Journalism – #AOMedia13

@Maid_Marianna #wmindata

So it turns out Data Journalism has more to it than just cool info graphics. I guess I secretly knew that but it was interesting to think about as the session went on, especially as it made me realise how ‘Data Journalism’ is behind so many of the headlines these days. Leaks, Surveys, percent; Marianne explained it was literally a jack of all trades approach with both investigation and analysing the data topping by far how its presented in the end. As if you don’t get the data right, there isn’t much point in displaying it after all. Her definition was to ‘acquire and extract in order to give sense and shape the information’.

An interesting point she made was with the BBC’s World at 7 billion web page. She pointed out this story had been done and covered very well, but this data journalism gave it a new edge, a new way of looking at the story and this way was almost completely personal to you.

The Basic How To do Data Journalism went as follows:

  1. Find a Question, that you’re passionate about
  2. Get the Data you need to answer it
    • OJB
    • Wikileaks
    • CableSearch
    • Crowdsourcing.org
    • Data.Gov (.uk)
    • Search for filetypes on google with the Site: and File: tags (Good for finding XLS)
    • Freedom of INformation
    • Do your own Surveys/Crowdsourcing
    • Buzzdata
    • Scraper Wiki/Data Mining
  3. Clean the Data! (Use Google Refine)
  4. Read it! And research the names and numbers to find the stories behind the figures
  5. Present it
  • Story
  • Simple Table
  • Charts
  • Manyeyes.com
  • Wordle.net
  • Tableau Public
  • Google Fusion Tables

A useful point Marianne made about this process was the benefits of presenting your clean data early so you can use the charts to focus in on specific parts of the data sets.

What Would Beyonce Do? @LauraMayCoope on the Re-Birth of @R1Breakfast – Guest Lecture

After last years rousing hubbub of Social Media revolution at Radio 1, I did wonder what exactly Laura would be letting us in on this time with a title like, What Would Beyonce do? I figured miming didn’t lend to radio very well, Nor do her sensational dance moves, you certainly can’t put a ring on radio. So maybe it was a reference to the ‘Survivor’ attitude of the radio medium enduring the rise of TV and the Internet. But no, it was a reference to Twitter and the inspiring re-birth of a show that had endured massive success with a huge following that was about to turn into something very different.

Laura May’s job when she visited the University of Westminster for a guest lecture in the Story Sound Image and Text module was the Head of Social Media at R1 and 1Xtra. We heard stories of Reading and Leeds, Hackney weekend, innovative ways to get the audience involved in listening bringing the listeners to the heart of the content. She is now the social media producer for Nick Grimshaw’s @R1Breakfast show.

And what would Beyonce Do is she faced the massive task of getting people into a new morning routine after 8 years of a presenter they knew and love? She’d be Silent. When Beyonce got a twitter account she didn’t tell everyone about her breakfast, how hung over she was, she didn’t even post a picture of her Starbucks; She just let it build. This is exactly what happened with the new Breakfast show. Laura explained how they set up spaces for it, mainly the @R1Breakfast Twitter, and using all the other noisy spaces they had pointed people to the account. She explained how silence was golden and rather than having a dull and dreary count down with the usual teases and taunts, the account just slowly built as listeners all over the country wondered and anticipated what would be their new morning ritual or maybe, their new friend?

Laura explained how she wanted to not just re-launch the show with its social media, but create an ego, a character with them. One that people could really interact with and come to know. From hashtags like #TeamGrimmy, spoof videos, and clips of the show she took content to the people because as she explained its all well and good having a brand, an ego but long gone are the days when you can rely solely on people coming to that ego.

The most interesting concept Laura spoke of was that of Fandom, with stars like Justin Bieber, One Direction, Taylor Swift no-matter how much research you do, you are never going to get close to the way their ‘Super’ “I’M YOUR NUMBER ONE FANS” know them. So Laura’s team set up Skype calls, phone interviews and got the super fans to ask the questions. Why? Because they already know the usual semantics that the DJ asks, its new to the DJ but not the fans; so in order to give them something new you have to let them ask. Nothing new I hear you scream? What’s wrong with texting in, even tweeting in questions? Laura provided an opportunity for them to have a real fan experience, it was personal it gave them their 15 minutes of fame in such a new and massive way. And whats interesting about all of this? That in turn made them a super fan of @R1Breakfast.

At the end of the lecture one member of the audience spoke of the Rajar figures and how despite all this wonder and bemusement they still hadn’t quite retained Chris Moyles numbers. However despite them still being very good (Only a 40,000 average listeners difference for a show that had 6.7 million average listeners & intentionally ditched the more Harry Styles in Team Grimmymature audience of its predecessor in an intentional vote of confidence in a new generation of listeners) What the Rajar figures don’t contain are everything that the breakfast show is doing, in all the places that people are. 15,000 listeners on Soundcloud when Nick Grimshaw ‘Woke’ up Harry styles, over a 1 million views on Youtube for a spoof video where Nick and guests click – and join the #BreakfastClique, International coverage of celebs ‘Instagrim’ (Photobooth) pictures, and incredibly 23,000 tumblr re-posts?

The future of Radio is not in live listening, although that will always be an element, its in investing in your audience by truly connecting with them where they are; Not just keeping happy the one that come to you.

So when in Doubt. Ask Yourself, What would Laura May Coope do?

Laura May CoopeA Special thanks to Laura for giving us at Westminster time and valuable insight into your work. You can find out more about Laura on her site ‘Milk Teef’ or by following her on twitter @LauraMayCoope

NAPO – News & Narratives #2MED633

In a recap from last week Habermas/Lippman’s Public Sphere theories we began with the idea of ‘Defining our Realities’. Looking at this with respect to the media Castells idea the media is ‘the social space where power is decided? (2007: 238) is particularly interesting especially after last weeks focus on the Ideal Public Sphere and whether its possible indeed in a deliberative model of democracy or at all in the Elite model which we seem to be ran under – or certainly lean more towards. This lead us to look at the ‘Symbolic Power’ or as Thompson puts it the Power “to influence the actions of others” (Thompson 1995: 17).

With this in mind we began our look at narratives, to which I particularly enjoyed the new (to me) concept of Communication, or News, as Ritual rather than simply Transmission. Transmission communication, is perhaps as simple as a dictionary definition of communication, is that of transmitting, sending, receiving information. However the other view is that communication is a Ritual an “Extension of Messages in space toward the maintenance of society in time.” (Carey 1989: 18).  In other words not finding out what has happened, like in the transmission model, but rather communicating to find out or re-affirm who we are.

News are little spoke of as stories, it is largely seen as fact, this is important because of the Symbolic power, the power to influence, News has. We looked at the idea of Enigmas, or in a Journalists mind the W’s – What, When, Who, Where, Why + How. Novels use enigmas to tease the reader in and rather than answering all of these questions straight away they give little by little away to keep you reading. Think about a Spy or Detective story you never know the full story until the last chapter. Whereas in News stories you are encouraged, or perhaps, expected to use the inverted pyramid model. This generally leads to the 6 Ws to be answered in the first sentence and in sharp contrast to Gabriel Garcia Mårquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude opener:

‘Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendi?a was to remember that distant a Dernoon when his father took him to discover ice’

After Graham pointed out that this style of news stories may seem like a good thing as we get the important facts quick, we can easily edit them as journalists – by just chopping the bottom off – it largely creates a superficial view of our Public Sphere. This was explored with Postmans comment: News consumers are: ‘the best entertained and quite likely the least well-informed people in the Western world’ (Postman 1985: 108).

What I found interesting by all of this was the trade-off between Story and Plot or as Torodov Puts it “The story is what has happened, the Plot is the way the author presents it” (Todorov 1977: 45). If this is the nub of it that means even the most objective journalist can never really tell the story only the plot.

With this in mind we had a brief insight into data journalism – which I hope we will re-explore – it seems the idea of this was to try to do what Torodov seems to suggest is impossible. By creating databases of information it is no longer up to the journalist to write the plot but simply present the story. Obviously there are limitations to this, the journalist could still withhold data and indeed the consumer then weaves their own plot with this data. And this is perhaps the most interesting idea, as it links back to communication being all about Identity, not facts, but finding our place in the world so we can be at peace with it. Or so we can jump back into Habbermas’ sphere and try to reason with it until we do understand.

With the world ever increasingly leaving its Industrial state and moving to a Networked state; Herbert Gans idea that the inverted pyramid is becoming outdated seems particularly important. Which essentially says Journalists need to get better at presenting the story, or indeed the Plot.

(Journalists) ‘will have to learn how complicated events can be described and explained in a more easily understandable fashion; and how connections between events and their contexts can be made intelligibly’ Gans (2009: 23).

With Thanks to Lecturer Professor Graham Meikle Email: g.meikle@westminster.ac.uk Twitter: @graham_meikle

Week 3 – Web Design #AOM2013

Having used WordPress to build sites before (The .Org Variety) I was surprised in particular by the figures that 14.9% of websites, of all websites are built with WordPress and of those that are CMS management systems the percent is 54%.

The focus was on Usability and the User Experience. Key Points with any product from flat pack furniture, to Websites are:

  • Effective
  • Efficient
  • Safe
  • Easy to Learn
  • Easy to Use
  • motivating
  • Aesthetically Pleasing

But there are always trade offs between these.

I particularly enjoyed the fake/real Microsoft diagram that showed the good things about apple products. It incorporated many of these key usabilities and how they work well with each other.

We ended the session by talking about how good or easy to use websites are. One example the class looked at was mapofhedead.com. It was quickly enjoyed by the class for its clear yet comic nature that explained all the built up areas where it would be difficult to survive in a Zombie Apocalypse, but then had local landmarks such as supermarkets and garages where you could re-supply. We agreed that this was an amusing and fun site that was easy to navigate as it used the well-known google maps as a 3rd party application so we didn’t have to learn a new map app. However it was clear that this site only had minimal, albeit comic use.

I choose www.planetrock.com to analyse. I picked this site because at first look it is a site that looks well-built, attractive and suitable to its target audience. Built to look a bit like an amp, with other Rock style items spread across the page to symbolise links rather than plain boxes. However as you continue to use this site it quickly becomes very ‘busy’ with too many pictures that are inconsistent in colour and style. The ads, that aren’t even 3rd party, are particularly ‘Clipart-y’. I decided as well-intentioned this site was it was just to busy with Pictures and Little explanatory text. I feel it needs some more white space.

This ended up being a good example of those original trade offs introducing how important the visible effect and nicety of websites can have but how that shouldnt be completely traded off at the expense of Usability.

M&M – Multiculturalism in the Media (W3)

Multiculturalism questions the ideology and concept of ‘One Nation’; This idea covers one language, one culture one way of doing things.

Benedict Andersen spoke of the idea of imagined communities and how they ar systems of cultural representations, or in short the way we perceive and view our society.

We used this to then look through the ideas of

  1. The Nation – Which is the imagined community
  2. The Nation State – The political/Admin/Schools/Hospital or Government within the nation
  3. Print Journalism – Which is important for standardising vernacular and language and creating communities (of readers)

Hobbaswm & Ranger spoke of the good example in Scotland using the Kilt as a symbol of the nation, where previously it wasnt specifically accredited to it.

We then spoke of how in the media we see our imagined community, or Nation several times over and over throughout the day. We see Union Flags on teddies and mugs, we always see maps with our country in the middle of maps or in the weather forecast on the BBC, we only get England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland; despite showing the weather change over the Republic of Ireland. We spoke about how Scanell speaks about in Tv Radio and Life how this brings the nation into the living room.

This lead us to look at the Unity and Naturalness of a Nation and how it’s portrayed in the media. This brought up how this is done at the expense of difference because people ‘want’ to see the national identity they know and love. The media are expected to produce the shared experience of the nation or create a ‘Standard’ memory of an event or story. A good example of this, and its subsequent conflict s 9/11. The media were very good at displaying the joint suffering and grieving of Americans, however they daren’t touch Muslim Americans in this suffrage.

This introduced the US and THEM concept. The media has a poor record of including difference, for many it is almost ‘invisible’ making people feel voicelessness. We also explored that exclusion happened as well when stereotypes were badly portrayed in an attempt to include ‘the others’. This is caused by poor resources that often ghettoize minorities by giving special slots to eg Gay, Asian, Christian shows time on the schedule but only really early or really late in the day.

To Consider the reasoning behind this we read an excerpt from a United Nations speech that used trains and passengers as a metaphor

We are passengers in trains (our cultures), each moving on its own track, at its own speed, and in its own direction. The trains rolling alongside, going in similar directions and at speeds not too different from our own are at least reasonably visible to us as we look out from our compartments. But trains on an oblique or parallel track which are going in an opposed direction are not. We perceive only a vague, fleeting, barely identifiable image, usually just a momentary blur in our visual field, supplying no information about itself and merely irritating us because it interrupts our placid contemplation of the landscape which serves as the backdrop to our daydreaming.

From C. Lévi-Strauss, The View from Afar

He said from this that we walk around as ‘Windowless Semantic Monads’ or people who are happy to sit in our world and not question it. This leads to niches and minorities to create their own media which fragments the media landscape and weakens the national broadcasting landscape as these minority medias are often more globally based.

There have been methods and policies media institutions and the ‘state’ have tried to bring in to tackle this.

  • Insisting on cultural representation of diversity in the Media
  • Actual representation in media employment
  • Minority participation in their own representation.

Roza concluding by reminding us that multiculturalism had tried to re-configure the way the nation is portrayed to prevent the notion of ‘I know the nation, I learned it once and I don’t need to re-look at it’ because it is always changing, growing and expanding.


News & Public Opinion – Public Sphere #NAPO

Today’s lecture focused on the opinion Democracy, or indeed more specifically Public opinion.

At first we explored the two widely accepted forms of representative democracy Elite and Deliberative.

Elite is where citizens vote for the Elite, who then make decisions based on un elected officials and experts opinions because they are thought based to make decisions on their field, as they are ‘Experts’.

The other, Deliberative, is where citizens still vote for representatives but they are instead much more involved in the decision making processes as the citizens and their ‘public opinions’ influence and inform the representatives.

At first look deliberative seems to make more sense or it seems to be more democratic. But what shocked me was how i felt like our ‘Democracy’ was more elitist than deliberative. I did settle on the concept of democracy as a sliding scale as our government and system of MPs is not entirely elitist but the Upper House of Lords, the use of aides and experts are. Its fairer to say ours sits somewhere between the two. That said, it is defiantly closer to the Elite format.]

There are two main Theorists to back these concepts of democracy and as a branch off the public sphere. First is Walter Lippman who believed the best way forward was the Elite structure. He argued this because he didn’t think people were clever enough or have the time to assess the complete info to make decisions on governance. He also argued that because everyone’s perception of reality was different how could the Public in general be expected to come to make important decisions. The most interesting thing about Lippman was he was the man behind the modern-day form of stereotypes; he said ‘We perceive reality to fit our stereotypes’ As to the media doing anything about helping the ‘Public’ understand he dismisses this as impossible because of the concept of journalists being ‘professionals’ (The idea Newspapers and Journalists are bound by the rules and advertising restrictions set by their organisation)

The counter theory supports the more deliberative theory and that is Jurgen Habermas’ theories. His speak of the Ideal Public sphere, potentially like the one in the 18th century Bourgeois public sphere during the rise of trading, capitalism and the middle class. He thinks that the Ideal Public Sphere has Universal access, free from state or economic pressure, that is dealt with in a rational way with critical discourse based on evidence. Habermas accepts we are handicapped by our perceptions as Lippman said but argues that if we talk and exchange on these perceptions, we are able to listen and alter them. However his theories also go on to explain that after the 18th century a ‘Re-Fuedalisation’ of media took place. By this he means there was and is now a return to where media is dependant on advertising and serves private interests, much in the way Lords ruled during the feudal age, now Media Moguls do now. He was also particularly critical of Public Relations, management and Manipulation of public opinion.

His theories have been criticized, especially by the feminism movement for talking of the Ideal public sphere in the 18th century, because that was made up of mainly (ironically largely like today) White, Middle Class, Men. However his ideas are much more palatable than Lippmans, as a show of hands at the end of the lecture saw very few Lippman fans over Habermas. As to those who say he is ‘utopian’ modern examples of his Ideal speech and public sphere concepts can be found in movements such as the Occupy movement who successfully found ways to re-engage with politics in his way in an attempt to make our democracy more deliberative. However the evictions of these camps see the Elite system winning over for now.

Week 2 – Audio Slideshows #AOM2013

So far at every masterclass or industry led lectures, everyone has spoke about the importance of being able to do ‘everything’. Having dabbled in web design and enjoying new and interesting ways to share hopefully this module will open my eyes to even more.

We looked at Audio Slideshows this week. I’ve been interested in the concept  since it was mentioned in a radio lecture last year, but never enough to go looking for one. We looked at several in class and I enjoy the focus to the moments captured they bring.

Orignally from http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/01/31/fashion/20090131-street-feature/index.html

Orignally from http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/01/31/fashion/20090131-street-feature/index.html

One particularly enjoyable, if not 30 seconds to long, was a New York Times (NYT) Fashion Journalist’s where he spoke over a collection of pictures taken on 5th avenue of workers, tourists and city goers ‘Jumping’ the massive puddles where the snow has melted between the side walks and the relative safety of the elevated roads. I enjoyed it as the speaker was so enthusiastic and descriptive which made the pictures come to life.

I enjoyed the NYT’s slide show of busking on the subway; the best ‘word’ to ‘picture’ that was used for me was when he was speaking about enjoying and we saw someone with a wonderful natural smile.

The best out of what we watched was the story of the school, the reason being I felt like it told a story that had the right balance of shock to draw you in, human interest for you to care, perspective from different players and a hopeful ending.

The concept that excited me most, the one from this session that I’d most likely to pursue for my project was the sound scape idea. We looked at a poorly recorded Alexander McQueen show on the Guardian website. I can imagine doing this backstage at a theatre or a gig. What I’d do differently however is either have a lead narrator or include lots of small specifically caught audio clips of people talking about what they were feeling too before ending as they did with a show of them on stage.

I learned that audio slide shows need to have any and all radio elements applied as well as photography, it’s all well and good having some good photos if you have a dull speaker; Wildtrack is key here too. They are good for

  • Photo Journalism
  • Lists
  • Top Tens
  • Strong Characters
  • Colour Piece/Flavour of an Event

I also have understood that the reason black and white imagery is used is to focus the viewer’s attention on whats actually going on, to focus the attention and it does this because it takes away information and therefore requires more concentration.