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August 13 2012

14:00

How National Geographic Used Cowbird Storytelling Tool to Tell a Reservation's Whole Story

Sometimes, it takes more than one storyteller to get a story right -- especially when the subjects of the story are members of a community that often feels misrepresented by media.

Thanks to multimedia storytelling tool Cowbird, photographer Aaron Huey and National Geographic were able to collaborate with the people of the Pine Ridge Reservation to jointly tell their story to the world. The result: the Pine Ridge Community Storytelling Project, a companion to the August 2012 cover story in National Geographic magazine.

The Roots of a New Storytelling Approach

After working with the Oglala Lakota people for seven years, Huey felt their stories couldn't adequately be conveyed in the pages of a magazine.

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"To make a really great narrative [in print] often means only telling the story of a couple of people, and trying to use those stories to tell the larger story of the community and where it's going," Huey said. "That's often confusing for the community itself. People always asked me why I couldn't fit in something about the all-star basketball team, or the scholars going on to college. Everyone wanted something specific and claimed that I was missing the entire story because I didn't have those things. They felt like they were misrepresented. They felt like for decades in the media, they'd been misrepresented."

While on a John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University, Huey reflected on this storytelling dilemma. He tried to build a multimedia platform himself that could be used by National Geographic, but he realized quickly that he didn't have "the money or the expertise" for the job. But when he discovered Cowbird, an online storytelling tool developed by Jonathan Harris, Huey knew it was just right for the stories he wanted to tell.

"It was obvious that it was the perfect collaboration. I didn't need to reinvent the wheel," he said.

Telling the Whole Story, Unfiltered

Cowbird allows people to tell stories with photos, audio, timelines, maps, and other media. Working together, Huey, Harris and the National Geographic team crafted a Cowbird story interface and embedded it into the magazine's website.

Each block on the page tells a different story, from bits of tribal history to an account of one boy's encounter with racism. One photo, titled "Rez joke #2," shows Lakota men in line at a convenience store with the caption, "Pine Ridge traffic jam."

Submissions continue to roll in. Huey screens each story to ensure that it connects to Pine Ridge or the Oglala Lakota in some way; stories are otherwise unedited.

"National Geographic was incredibly brave to run this unedited content and to trust me to do this right," Huey said.

Inspiring New Approaches

The magazine's editor-in-chief, Chris Johns, said Cowbird and the "unfiltered voice" of the Pine Ridge storytellers were a natural fit for National Geographic. "This is a future that we're terribly excited about and fully embracing. This just suits our DNA perfectly."

For a magazine whose goal is representing often new, distant and unfamiliar places and cultures, this partnership has inspired thinking about new storytelling possibilities.

"I believe in the importance of letting people have their voice," Johns said. "We want to hear the voices of others, the voices of those who were photographed, to hear what they feel about the work we are doing."

Huey said this style of storytelling will continue in his own work, and he hopes it's something more journalists will embrace.

"We can't just put stories out there that are filtered through one or two people's vision anymore," he said. He noted that tools like Cowbird that enable multifaceted storytelling are especially useful for telling stories about a community likely to feel misrepresented by media.

"It's the right tool whenever there is a possibility for people to feel misrepresented -- when we as journalists are talking in big brush strokes about whole peoples or ways of thinking," he said.

Huey hopes that the Pine Ridge project will contain more than 500 stories by the end of 2012.

"We found a way to make the story infinitely expanding," he said. "The only limitation is apathy."

Susan Currie Sivek, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Mass Communication at Linfield College. Her research focuses on magazines and media communities. She also blogs at sivekmedia.com, and is the magazine correspondent for MediaShift.

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April 27 2012

17:40

Poll: Where Are Your Favorite Places to Share Photos?

You recently went on vacation to an exotic and new locale and you want to show people your great photos from the trip. So where do you post them online? Are you a fan of Flickr or Facebook? What about Instagram? Or perhaps you're part of the thriving photography community on Google+. And let's not forget the old school folks who still prefer getting photo prints and putting them in an actual real physical photo album! Vote in our poll -- you can vote for multiple items -- and explain in the comments what makes a good photo-sharing service for you.


Where are your favorite places to share photos?

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13:38

Mediatwits #46: Photography Special: Creative Commons, Cameraphones, Instagram, Google+

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Welcome to the 46th episode of the Mediatwits podcast, this time with Mark Glaser and the Rafat Ali as co-hosts. Rafat is celebrating his birthday, we're not sure how old he is, but we know that he loves photography. So this week we are celebrating his birthday by doing a special show focused on photography in the digital age. Our roundtable includes crack professional photographer Gregor Halenda, photo and multimedia guru Brian Storm and social photographer extraordinaire Thomas Hawk in a wide-ranging discussion.

First is the debate over rights: Is it a good idea to post your photos on social media under a Creative Commons license? Or should you be more restrictive of your photos online? We also talk about the state of stock photography and the democratization of photography now that the tools are more accessible -- and everyone has a potential global reach online. And what about the rise of amazing cameraphones, apps and filters? Now that Instagram has been bought by Facebook for $1 billion, what's the implication about the future of photo-sharing and filters? Thomas Hawk also cites Google+ as being a hotbed of photography. How did it surpass Facebook?

Check it out!

mediatwits46.mp3

Subscribe to the podcast here

Subscribe to Mediatwits via iTunes

Follow @TheMediatwits on Twitter here

Our show is now on Stitcher and being featured there! Listen to us on your iPhone, Android Phone, Kindle Fire and other devices with Stitcher. Find Stitcher in your app store or at stitcher.com.

Intro and outro music by 3 Feet Up; mid-podcast music by Autumn Eyes via Mevio's Music Alley.

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Here are some highlighted topics from the show:

Intro

0:20: Happy birthday to Rafat!

2:15: Rafat got the photography bug in last two years

4:00: Pro photographers threatened by rise of amateurs

Creative Commons a good thing?

6:00: Special guests Thomas Hawk, Brian Storm and Gregor Halenda

8:30: Flickr has even started to innovate, along with newer players

10:20: Halenda: I won't post on Flickr or under Creative Commons, I want to be paid

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13:20: Hawk: There are examples of pro photogs making a business from posting online

What skills do photographers need now?

15:00: Storm: Schools are teaching kids everything -- photography, video and multimedia

18:00: Halenda: Stock photography can't support pros anymore

20:10: Storm: Everyone has tools and distribution so now it's all about quality

22:10: Hawk: Google+ lets you share circles of photographers with all followers

Cameraphones get ever more powerful

25:30: High-end cameras are still selling well

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27:30: Hawk likes Camera Awesome as one of his favorite photo apps

29:40: Halenda says knowing Photoshop is essential to pro photography

32:30: Storm helped start "The Week in Pictures" at MSNBC.com in 1998 as pioneer; had 100 million page views last month

More Reading

Photojournalists Scramble to Video. Is it Worth It? at MediaShift

Digital camera sales defy smartphone onslaught at the Globe and Mail

Zuckerberg announces Instagram purchase on Facebook

Camera Awesome app

Thomas Hawk on Google+

Gregor Halenda Photography

MediaStorm

The Week in Pictures at MSNBC.com

The Big Picture at Boston.com

Lens blog at NY Times

Guardian Eyewitness app

Flickr Creative Commons images

Creative Commons' Images blog

Creative Commons + Flickr = 22 Million Sharable Photos at MediaShift

The Digital Journalist

Weekly Poll

Don't forget to vote in our weekly poll, this time about where you share photos:


Where are your favorite places to share photos?

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit. and Circle him on Google+

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April 24 2012

14:00

Photojournalists Scramble to Video. Is it Worth It?

Few can say they didn't see it coming. but many felt the final nail in the coffin was firmly in place when at the end of 2011 CNN fired 50 photojournalists.

The international news network explained its decision in a letter:

We looked at the impact of user-generated content and social media, CNN iReporters and of course our affiliate contributions in breaking news. Consumer and pro-sumer technologies are simpler and more accessible. Small cameras are now high broadcast quality. More of this technology is in the hands of more people. After completing this analysis, CNN determined that some photojournalists will be departing the company.

What exactly led up to this is point is hard to pinpoint; it's a chicken-or-egg situation. Some might say it began with the lowered cost of DSLR cameras or the fact that every cell phone began to come with a camera.

Another camp will point fingers at the steady decline of the newspaper industry and its inability to maintain exclusivity as the daily go-to for information, leading to a shift of quantity over quality.

Add to that the crash of world economies, and the result is that photojournalists have been losing their jobs to mass layoffs for the last few years.

But many are rallying and turning on the video function on their DSLR cameras and becoming video journalists.

Photographers learning video

One successful photojournalist who early on made the transition to video is the Pulitzer Prize-winning Vincent Laforet. He told me that when he was growing up, he wanted to study both journalism and film. "I picked journalism in the end and am happy I did so. When the Canon 5D MKII came out -- it seemed to be the perfect timing to make the transition for me," he said.

Laforet dove into video early on when the technology presented itself and has made a name in the video world. He is now a member of the Directors Guild of America.

I also spoke with two photojournalists currently incorporating video into their reporting, Ana Elisa Fuentes and Julie Dermansky.

Ana Elisa Fuentes' photography has appeared in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Life, Vanity Fair, People Magazines and the Los Angeles Times, and Julie Dermansky has been working with The Atlantic, US News, The Guardian, The New York Times and The Washington Post.

I asked them why they first started shooting video, what difference they find between photojournalism and video, and what they think of the current market for photojournalists.

Ana Elisa Fuentes: Clearly the market for photojournalism, at least in the United States, is shrinking -- specifically, the day-in-and-day-out photojournalism as seen in daily newspapers and magazines. This is very sad, and I see this as perilous and injurious to democracy. Journalists are the fourth estate, part of the check and balance of our democratic process. Images are essential to an open society.

The most profound difference for me between video and photography is in "still" -- in photography, you can wait for hours for the right moment. The waiting requires patience, for what Henri Cartier Bresson coined as "the decisive moment." When you have captured this moment, everything comes together.

I believe having more tools available in the tool box is essential for photographers or anyone in visual media. I also believe photographers have to become more creative in how still images can be used or sold. I often recommend up-and-coming journalists to think "packaging." What languages do you speak? How many? Polish your writing skills. Acquire multimedia skills. Your office is your laptop -- update, update, update."

Julie Dermansky: I started out as an artist showing my work in galleries and selling it on the streets of NYC in 1988. In 2004, I switched my focus from painting and sculpture to photography. I branched out from my in-depth personal projects into the realm of photojournalism in 2008. Labeling myself an artist or a photojournalist is of no consequence to me. I leave that for others. I started to learn video when I went to Iraq in 2008 and started to make a habit of shooting video along with my stills using a Canon 5D MKII in 2010.

Technically, photography and video require some of the same skills. The hardest thing sometimes is to decide whether to shoot video or stills -- often by doing both you can end up with work that is not as good as it should be. It is very hard to go back and forth, and inevitably you will miss the still you wish you would have taken -- or missed the moment of action you wanted to film. So generally, I shoot stills first and video once I'm done, though I don't always stick with that standard. Emotionally, that has more to do with the situation than the media. Both are fantastic tools to work with.

I have worked with a cameraman and produced video news packages from Iraq, so I picked up tips from him. Working with a pro in the editing phase taught me a lot of what is needed to make a news package.

This is a terrible market for photojournalists since so many photographers are willing to give their work away for free. Media outlets have started to rely on the free stuff. There is a small number of photojournalists who are able to continue to make a living, but the whole marketplace seems to deliver lower and lower paychecks -- and there are fewer jobs. Crowdsourcing and free photos are lowering the bar of quality as well. Some talented members of the photography community have had to drop out to make a living in a different way.

Shooting video helps keep a photographer marketable as news media wants both stills and film these days, and they want it for one price. If you can't do it, they take someone who can. Also, in the commercial world, video commands higher fees than stills, so for practical purposes video shooting is a skill one needs to have to survive. Not to learn it is to limit yourself. You should take advantage of all available tools at your disposal. That is how I see it."



Julie Dermansky is interviewed by Fox News about her photojournalism work on the Occupy movement.


Do photojournalists make good video journalists?

Adam Westbrook, a multimedia producer who writes and lectures on the subject of video journalism, believes there are many pitfalls to be avoided when photographers move into video.

He even wrote a guide to common mistakes.

Some include: forgetting the importance of audio or not using a tripod when needed and, most importantly, understanding "show, don't tell" as a principle of visual storytelling. As he aptly says, "Five years after YouTube's birth there's probably not a newsroom in the land that isn't trying to do video journalism in some way or another."

Some of the mistakes Westbrook points out can be avoided with proper training, but that appears to be something many employers are not willing to pay for. As early as 2009, the question of whether or not newspapers would be willing to train their photographers to become video journalists was being investigated by Blake Kimzey for Black Star Rising: "Training for photojournalists in video varies from newspaper to newspaper -- but at many papers, it's been spotty at best. Most photographers say sufficient training and the time to learn are seldom provided. While some newspapers send their staffers to attend industry conferences, and others offer in-house courses, many staffers say they mostly learn through trial-and-error on the job."

This appears to still be a problem -- as Sean D. Elliot, president of the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), recently told me: "Unfortunately for our members, the publications have been wanting the video, but they have not generally been willing to pay for the training. Many visual journalists have paid their own ticket to attend NPPA's many video and multimedia workshops."

Elliot said that the advent of web video and multimedia led the NPPA to reconfigure many of their educational programs some years back.

"This was in the era when newspapers everywhere were looking at web video as the salvation of their operations. Time has shown that nobody has been able to monetize web video well enough for it to be any sort of saving grace," he said. "Many papers have either eliminated or curtailed their web video efforts. Some chose to focus on doing less video but doing it better, and some have simply dropped any semblance of quality, opting instead for short snippets of video shot by reporters with smartphones or Flip-type cameras. The jury is still out on where this will fit into the long-term journalism paradigm."

Laforet has some wise advice for photographers interested in learning video: "It's a very different field -- and not for everyone. I recommend they try it out first before making the commitment. I recommend they study the competition and the economics of the field they are going into. Just as there are many different sub-fields and specialties and budgets in photography -- the same is true of video. It's a bold move, but one that many should at the very least try, in my opinion."



"Reverie" -- Vincent Laforet was the director and cinematographer on this video considered to be the first 1080p widely released shot on the Canon 5D MKII. It was viewed more than 2 million times in the first week of its release.


Does learning video provide any kind of job safety?

I tried to track down an official study of how many photojournalists had lost their jobs in the last few years in the U.S. NPPA didn't know exact figures, and Kenny Irby, a senior faculty member at Poynter, said he didn't know of any study offering numeric data. He explained that collecting such data took a great deal of resources and money, something scarce these days. "We know that staff sizes and the number of 'feet on the street' reporters are way down," he added.

In an article on Poynter in 2009, photographer Ami Vitale, whose work has appeared in National Geographic, Newsweek, Time and Smithsonian, was optimistic about her experience with video: "This is the best time to be a photojournalist. We have more tools available than ever before, and we also have an audience bigger than any time in the history of mankind ... I see this as a wonderful time to exploit all these tools for the power of good!"

Yet in an interview earlier this year, Dan Chung, a photo and video journalist and founder of the popular website DSLRNewsShooter, said, "I don't really see a future in photojournalism, if I'm completely honest, as a way to earn a living. But also there are a lot of creative opportunities with moving images that you couldn't possibly dream of doing with stills. I'm surprised, though, that relatively few other photographers have made that conversion."



A video of a military parade in North Korea shot by Dan Chung for The Guardian.


But with the cell phones in everyone's pocket being equipped with HD video capability, will free crowdsourced material just take over video journalism as well? Laforet gave a nuanced answer: "I'm afraid so. But not to the same degree. The production hurdles and the amount of work involved in getting a good video piece out (pre-production, script, storyboarding, editing, music, mixing, grading, etc.) makes it more complex than making a single photograph. It's very hard for most to do all of these specialties alone -- it almost demands working with others and therefore becomes more complex and, more often than not, more expensive."

It looks like the term "visual journalist" will become a common phrase. "The move to online has been, arguably, a boon to visual journalism as far as the potential audience is concerned, but obviously the challenges that the web has posed to the business model of newspapers has led to a lot of lost jobs," Elliot said.

As for the problem of many photographers losing their jobs to "citizen journalists" as in the CNN case, Elliot said, "The reality that citizen journalists will have a better chance of 'being there' for the big moment is only more real today. The democratization of photography, where one no longer needs to have esoteric darkroom skills and tens of thousands of dollars of equipment to produce images of relative high quality has certainly affected certain markets.

"But the need for visual journalists who have a command of both the technical aspects of still and video as well as the mind-set for quality visual storytelling remains. Video storytelling is different in execution than still photography, without a doubt. But it has been well-established that very talented still photographers can make the transition back and forth between the media and enhance their visual reporting."

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the next few years. Certainly the public's demand for visual content shows no sign of declining. Just this month, the Associated Press announced its own online video delivery platform. Clearly, demand is high, and rising.

Amanda Lin Costa is a writer and producer in the film and television industry. She writes a series called "Truth in Documentary Filmmaking" and is currently producing the documentary, "The Art of Memories."

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This piece was originally published by the European Journalism Centre, an independent non-profit institute dedicated to the highest standards in journalism, primarily through the further training of journalists and media professionals. Follow @ejcnet for Twitter updates, here on Facebook and on the EJC Online Journalism Community.

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October 05 2011

14:46

Once Magazine Takes the Photo Magazine into the App World

Photographers who might have aspired to see their work published on the glossy pages of a magazine can now opt for the glossy screen of an iPad.

Once Magazine, a "visual storytelling" app for the iPad, is a new showcase for photographers' work and related multimedia. The app provides three cohesive photo essays, each with an array of high-resolution photos that are united by narrative text and supplemented by other features, such as infographics and audio clips.

Once's free pilot issue was released in August. Its next issue -- which will cost $2.99 and offer subscription options -- will likely be released in October with the debut of Apple's iOS 5 and its new Newsstand feature. Once is yet another magazine app that challenges our understanding of what magazines are -- and might be. Its founders think it might also represent an important path into the future of photography.

Once's Editorial Concept

Once's strategy is to assemble "stories worth touching," said publisher Andrew Jones, in order to make the most of the iPad's interface and its ability to display high-quality images.

The app's focus on quality visuals means that its editorial process begins with the photography. The editorial team identifies photographers with intriguing work and asks them to participate. After about 20 photos on one theme are selected, the Once editorial team identifies a journalist with relevant knowledge and experience, and commissions text that wraps a compelling story around the photo sequence. Additional interactive elements and audio clips are added to the photos to enrich the reading experience.

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The three photo essays included in Once's pilot edition cover a lot of territory, and each depict life in different regions: the far reaches of Greenland; Abkhazia, a region of the country of Georgia; and Sun City, Ariz., a retirement community near Phoenix.

While photographers whose work is used in Once may have taken these photos while working on other projects, the text used with them is newly developed.

"It's a unique editorial model in that the stories are built retroactively. It fits well with our budget and our business model," said Nick Hiebert, Once's communications director. "We don't have to pay journalists upfront to go to these countries. We find journalists who are already in these areas or already have expertise in the area, which makes reporting much easier for them and more cost-effective."

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Photographer Andrea Gjestvang, whose photographs of life in Greenland are included in the pilot issue, appreciated the opportunity for a different selection of her images to tell a new story in Once.

"I like the idea that they brought in the journalist who wrote the independent text. [It was] her words, her story, but it went very well with my pictures," said Gjestvang, a freelance photographer who is based in Norway. "Normally, when I have been presenting this project, I've been focusing more on the daily life and social life, whereas they focused more on the hunting side. The selection of pictures was a bit different than what I normally use, but it was nice that one big project can have different stories within the project."

The Audience for Photography

Once's high-end visual concept is based on its founders' observation that the public is increasingly interested in and sensitive about photography, but so far it's been difficult to make photography lucrative.

"Once is addressing a number of problems, we like to think, one of them being that photography is not paying very well," Jones said. Yet DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) cameras and cell phone photography have helped more people take higher-quality photos and in greater quantities, he observed.

"It seems like a real disconnect. More people know more and are exposed to really high-quality photography. Once is trying to leverage that whole shift in consumer habits, toward thinking about photographs being really valuable," Jones said.

Starting with the next issue, photographers published in Once will receive a cut of the magazine's revenues. The $2.99 charge for each issue first will be reduced by Apple's standard 30 percent cut, then the remainder is split: half to the magazine and half divided among the three published photographers. So far, the magazine's writers have received a flat fee, but Once is exploring ways to include them in the revenue-sharing model as well.

Hiebert noted that this isn't usually how photographers are paid for their work. "Typically, photographers are contracted with a set amount of money. Because we have this new data that Apple gives us through iTunes, we're allowed to see how many downloads are coming -- and how much money the magazine is making -- much more accurately than publications in the past that were relying on traditional sales data," he said.

Photographer Gjestvang is hopeful that this model will appeal to a wider audience.

"Many photographers hope that it will bring a new way of publishing work in the future which will also pay for what you are doing," she said. "Of course, you need the audience to pay for the project that you spend so much time on ... It's also important that if you want to have a broad audience, to not only make a magazine for other photographers, but for all kinds of people, to make the audience curious about what's going on in the world."

Once Looks Ahead

The Once concept is likely to evolve to include additional multimedia -- though photography will always play a major role -- and to be available on new platforms.

"We're trying to push a new type of storytelling experience that is only available on the iPad, kind of a tactile experience," Jones said. "That learning experience, that entertainment experience is so much richer when we can bring in the reader through physically touching."

Today's photographers shooting with DSLRs often capture audio and video that can be incorporated into Once. Infographics are also now easier to create with new online tools. The complexity of the app as a whole, though, is still somewhat limited by technical considerations.

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"We would love to include as much video and audio in every essay [as we could], but the truth of the matter is that it increases file size and that maybe affects download numbers," Hiebert said. "We also don't want to ... distract from the narrative focus."

The magazine plans to move next to the iPhone, then to explore opportunities on Android platforms, including the new Kindle Fire tablet, which require more development than the shift to the iPhone. The potential for the forthcoming iPad 3 to include a higher-resolution "retina display," similar to that already used for the iPhone 4, would also be an ideal match for Once's content, Jones said.

The new platforms will likely lead to still more innovations.

"The iPad has allowed us to develop a pretty unique product in Once. You don't envision a magazine as a three-essay package," Hiebert said. "But we can reconceptualize what the magazine is, now that there are different platforms for delivering them."

Susan Currie Sivek, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Mass Communication at Linfield College. Her research focuses on magazines and media communities. She also blogs at sivekmedia.com, and is the magazine correspondent for MediaShift.

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July 21 2011

17:46

Google+ Terms of Service, Illustrated

Editor's note: When Google+ launched, there was much ado about the Terms of Service, especially in how they related to photos. So, artist Ryan Estrada set out to simplify things with the following infographics, which immediately went viral. He explains below what inspired them.

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I'm an artist who makes my living sharing my work online, and when I joined Google+ I found a whole new audience for my work, which is one of the hardest things for artists to do. Thousands of new readers a day were discovering my work, downloading my books, and telling their friends. Many of them were new to webcomics entirely, and I've been able to introduce them to a number of artists.

I was trying to convince some artist friends to join in the sharing love too, but many of them had been scared off by people selectively copying and pasting the scariest-sounding parts of Google+'s terms-of-service. I got tired of having to copy and paste the missing sections every time it came up in a discussion, or retype what they meant in regards to a social network. So I decided to put the entire section, along with my interpretation, in one easily shareable graphic so that we can stop having the same discussion, and start sharing some art!

Ryan Estrada moves to a new country every year just because he can. He has worked on graphic novels, anthologies like "Flight: Volume 4," his own online adventure show called "Expeditions," an Adult Swim series, an animated feature, and had a strange afternoon doing voiceover work for a Bollywood movie. He loves sharing, so all of his work is available for free at www.ryanestrada.com. He can be found on Google+ at plus.to/ryanestrada

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March 01 2011

22:28

Shankbone's Wikipedia Photo Portraits Spread Like Wildfire

David Shankbone is arguably the most influential new media photojournalist in the world.

He has taken over 1,000 portraits of prominent people across a variety of fields for articles on Wikipedia.com and its foreign language equivalents. Because the pictures are copyleft -- or free for reproduction, alteration, and distribution -- they are used by numerous non-profits, schools, authors, television programs and well known publications, such as the New York Times and the Miami Herald.

He has also interviewed leaders ranging from Al Sharpton to former Israeli President Shimon Peres and given presentations in the United States and abroad about Wikipedia, new media and Internet culture.

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But, as a recent Columbia Journalism Review article about this famous Wikipedian revealed, Shankbone isn't even his real name and journalism isn't his profession. It's David Miller and his day job is doing legal work on Wall Street.

In spite of all that, Miller -- as Shankbone -- has had a big influence on the development of web culture. In a discussion conducted via email, I asked Shankbone about his controversial contributions to Wikipedia, the way the web and WikiLeaks are changing journalism, and what he thinks legacy media organizations need to do to survive in the digital age.

Your portraits of famous people range from Taylor Swift to Gore Vidal, and they have been used by news sites ranging from Vanity Fair to Forbes. Do you identify yourself as a photojournalist, artist, or what?

Shankbone: Probably more of an artist. Information is realist art and I create information. The challenge to be empirical was more exciting for me than infusing my work with my own perspective.

A few years ago your photo documenting the making of an adult film was banned by the Australian government. Do you think the Internet pushes society's limits of what is acceptable, or does it reflect what is already there?

Shankbone: Knowledge pushes those boundaries. Few aspects of society are hidden any more and Wikipedia's approach to unadulterated information plays a hand.

Explicit images on Wikipedia have been very controversial, but time is on the side of the editors who want little censorship of reality. There's a rational line to be drawn, but what kind of porn researcher would be surprised and offended to see an example of how it's made on the pornography article [in Wikipedia]?

Another one of your photos, "Palestinian Boy with Toy Gun in Nazareth" (below, left) you placed on the Wikipedia article Children and Minors in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. This caused controversy because some critics believed you were trying to push a political view, since you had taken it on a press junket that was funded by the Israeli government. What prompted you to choose that photo?

250-Palestinian_boy_with_toy_guy_in_Nazareth_by_David_Shankbone.jpgShankbone: I saw the photograph and thought about the debate over whether children playing with toy weapons increases violence. A few years earlier in Israel, a child with a toy gun was shot by a soldier -- something that also happens in the United States with the police. There was also a study in Israel about the psychological effects the conflict had on children. So, given all of that, I thought the photograph of a child in Israel with a toy gun worked.

It was only a few people who took the worst possible interpretation, which is that I was portraying this child as a terrorist. At the same time I placed Palestinian Kids in Nazareth, a photo of his friends hugging, on the Friendship article, and that photo is now found on the Palestinian people article.

How do you feel about the role digital media is playing in the Middle East protests?

Shankbone: Satellite and Internet make it impossible to control what people know. I am as nervous as anyone about how it will all look a year from now, but the desire of a nation to be freer and find its own voice is something to be cheered, even when it's not clear that it's in America's best interest.

What impact have the Internet and bloggers had on journalism?

Shankbone: Corporatism hurt American journalism and the Internet exposed that it was no longer functioning as the Fourth Estate. New York Times executive editor Bill Keller admitted that the government vetted the Wikileaks cables before [his paper] published them. What a far cry from the Pentagon Papers. It's a problem. We need the media. But everyone across the political spectrum is angry because too often journalists fail at what they purport to do.

WikiLeaks is a polarizing force in American media. Is the radical transparency espoused by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange changing traditional journalism mores?

Shankbone: WikiLeaks means the public will expose lies, horror, and hypocrisy if the media won't. The best analysis is on blogs and the best journalism is public or foreign. American reporters crave 'access' -- and their editors demand it, no matter how much it corrupts.

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I recently had a drink with a writer from Gawker and I said, 'You guys must be invited to so many incredible parties.' He replied, 'Believe it or not, we aren't because people are worried that we will write something unflattering.' A real journalist should be able to say the same. Instead, I photograph them on red carpets.

Sadly for the foreseeable future, hacks will reign at the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times will be a degraded mess, the New York Times will fumble along, and cable news will be little better than talk radio.

What changes would you like to see legacy media organizations make in the digital age?

Shankbone: They think to be neutral is to be uncontroversial and to not assert the truth. They think balance means two opposing views and that somewhere in the middle is moderation. Such ridiculous notions have come to define the attempt to present reality to their audiences. The jig is up: Everybody knows that it's impossible to be totally neutral.

Don't shout from the rooftops that you have a perspective, just stop insisting that you don't and try your damnedest not to let it bias your facts. Mimic the example of the profitable Economist magazine, the most respected publication in the world. Fox News would be great if it was a place where the interesting nuance of conservative thought was hashed out before its viewers.

Be daring. Try new things. Newspapers should involve local citizen reporters in their articles, with talent the only barrier to consideration. Discover the good local bloggers and photographers and develop relationships with them. Dispatch them. Pay them a nominal fee. Have regular reporters work with locals and give them one of those "additional reporting by..." credits. That would help foster a cohesive bond with the communities that they serve.

All images by David Shankbone, via Wikipedia.

Sandra Ordonez calls herself a web astronaut who has been helping organizations navigate the Internet since 1997. In the last two years, she has collected over 200 interviews on the future of journalism, and was one of the first Communication Managers for Wikipedia. She specializes in community management, collaboration, and artisan branding. Her official site, Collaborative Nation, is a home for tecno-activists. She also heads up the Facebook page, Bicultural and Multicultural People Rule." She graduated from American University with a double degree in International Relations and Public Relations.

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September 27 2010

23:45

Adrian Grenier Turns Camera on Paparazzi in HBO Documentary

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"I'm going to meet Adrian Grenier from 'Entourage' and see his new documentary," I told a friend recently. That friend is a female who's married but also a fan of "Entourage."

"Can you tell him I think he's cute?" she said.

I think he gets the message. Grenier plays Vincent Chase, the good-looking idiot savant in "Entourage" who makes the money while his crew does all the dirty work. But Grenier in real life is someone who can take that parody of celebrity culture even further. In his new documentary, Teenage Paparazzo (premiering tonight on HBO), Grenier is the director, on-screen star, and master manipulator. The story is ostensibly about a 14-year-old paparazzo named Austin Visschedyk, who lives in Hollywood and has parents that don't mind him going out till 3 am and stalking celebrities to get photos of them.

But very quickly, you realize the film is more about Grenier and his own interactions with paparazzi, and his musings on privacy in the digital age. Grenier purchases a high-end camera for himself, and with Austin's help, joins the pack to try to get photos of celebs. He becomes a catalyst of sorts for Austin, helping him become a celebrity with his own reality show on E! Though Grenier interviews media experts like Henry Jenkins (at a Boston Red Sox game where an "Entourage" fan rudely interrupts), the documentary prompts more questions than it answers.

Why is Grenier on-screen so much, interacting with the main characters and ratcheting up the drama? Isn't he having a long-term effect on a young man's future? Is that good? But more than that, Grenier leaves it all in the documentary, his own musings and even his own questions about what he is doing, and whether it is for good or ill. At one point, he stages an elaborate "date" with Paris Hilton just to get tongues wagging -- as well as good photos for his pal, Austin. And more than that, he shows the protagonists the film so far to see how ashamed they are of their actions.

While Grenier weaves the story well with the expert analysis, including interviews with stars such as Hilton, Whoopie Goldberg and Alec Baldwin, he misses an opportunity to get at the power behind the paparazzi. When he finally goes to the photo editors at the tabloid magazine, OK, he never asks them what their responsibility is when it comes to privacy and stalking. And while he shows Austin obsessively posting and editing photos on his computer, and mentions the phenomenon of sites such as TMZ, he never talks to bloggers beyond Perez Hilton.

Though it feels like Grenier is in every frame of the documentary (behind or in front of the camera), we still don't know who he is, how he differs from the cipher of Vinnie Chase. After I saw the preview showing of the documentary, I asked Grenier why I still didn't know who he was and what his emotional response was to the action in the documentary.

"That's what my girlfriend said, too," he responded. "I've always had a very objective personality, not putting my opinion up front. My last documentary 'Shot in the Dark' is very personal, about my search for my father."

Twitter Interview

I had a chance today to do a live interview of Grenier on Twitter, and asked him the question again: What makes him different than Vincent Chase?

"The difference between me and Vince is that I see irony in everything and he is more earnest," he wrote back.

So maybe this is all about irony, and Grenier definitely leverages more irony in his social media promotions for the documentary, including the ridiculous S'leb Suit infomercial (starring celebrities, of course). Below is my Twitter interview with Grenier, edited via Keepstream.

What do you think about the notion of privacy in the digital age, and rise of sites such as TMZ? If you saw the "Teenage Paparazzo" documentary, what did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

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March 25 2010

22:12

Photo Essay: Location Apps Battle, Geeks Gather at SXSW

Every March, the city of Austin, Texas, welcomes the world for its annual South by Southwest Festival, otherwise known as SXSW. The festival consists of three parts: SXSW Interactive, a four-day geekfest for the Internet community; SXSW Film, ten days of international cinema programs; and SXSW Music, a four day non-stop celebration of live music.

The Interactive section, known as SXSWi, is always a prime spot for the early adoption of new online technology. This year's edition featured a showdown between location-based applications Gowalla and Foursquare, as well as the debut of Google Bike Maps, and examples of citizen journalism at its geekiest.

Below is a recap of SXSW Interactive 2010 by Vancouver-based photographer Kris Krüg.

sxsw-mobile-social-bike-0844

The talk of SXSWi was Gowalla versus Foursquare.These applications use the GPS on your smartphone to allow you to check-in at locations, earn points for your travels, and connect with friends. Austin-based Gowalla appeared to be the crowd favorite, though Foursquare seemed to win in terms of user numbers.

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March 03 2010

15:30

Are Photos by Aid Workers an Invasion of Privacy in Haiti?

I recently spent a week in Port au Prince, Haiti, helping in a tent hospital set up at the airport.

michelle.jpgWhen I arrived back in San Francisco, I wrote about my experience in Haiti on my blog and posted pictures I had taken. I also posted photos on my Facebook profile, including images of smiling children who had just been operated on, long lines of patients, and even some "fun" photos, such as a few of me letting off some steam with a brigade of Portuguese firefighters at their camp (see photo at left).


Now, a rumor is circulating among volunteers that we should remove any photos of our time at the hospital from Facebook and other websites, unless we had received permission to take photographs.

On one hand, it seems like a reasonable request. Some of the photographs posted by volunteers seem invasive: There are photos of an anonymous leg being cut into, an un-named mother giving birth, people who are clearly sedated, and bleary-eyed volunteers drinking beer at the UN café. They have attracted attention and criticism at the hospital, and among some of our Facebook friends.


One friend of mine, who put a strange mix of suffering, surgeries, and drunken party photos on Facebook, posted a rant defending her right to post whatever she wanted. Her logic: If CNN can film a woman giving birth, then why is it wrong for her to do the same? She pointed out she is saving lives, and had the cojones to drop everything to help in Haiti in the first place, unlike her critics back home.



This ethical debate is inspired by the ability of anyone to easily create and distribute media such as photos, videos or blog posts. Professional media have long been training their cameras and mikes on the victims of natural disasters, but now anyone can do it, too. Is it more invasive just because some of us don't have a press pass?

Glimpsing Freedom -- And TV Cameras

Recently, a man who was rescued after being trapped for 27 days glimpsed the sky and the CNN cameras at almost the same moment. This isn't surprising. At one point, when I was in Haiti, I was counseling a traumatized mute boy at the hospital when all of a sudden he and I we were swarmed by a U.S. news network camera crew. Their lenses were inches from the boy's face as a doctor I had not met before talked about the boy's needs and his "thousand-yard stare." I remember thinking, "What this boy needs is for you to get the camera out of his face."

haiti2.JPGLater, a reality show doctor showed up and demanded that doctors operate on an 87 year-old woman with a broken pelvis that the TV doctor had "rescued" from her home. A real doctor accused the TV doctor of exploiting a disaster for her own interests.


Perhaps this is why blogs, Facebook posts, and tweets from citizens can sometimes do a better job of putting a human face on the suffering in Haiti, and bring it home to people who may not otherwise pay attention. We've become desensitized to the way traditional media portray events like the recent one in Haiti; it's possible that the authenticity contained in the accounts of non-journalists on the ground have a greater impact on folks back in the States.

Like most of those who have responded so generously to the crisis in Haiti, even the grandstanders probably had good intentions. But they can get in the way of those working to help the victims, and they can make it appear as if all of us on the ground are being insensitive, heedless of privacy, and are pumped up by our own do-goodedness.

Not surprisingly, the day after the reality TV doctor made her dramatic visit, strict media guidelines were put in place at the camp. Reporters needed to be vetted, sign in, and wear "authorized" media badges.

To Remove or Not?

So will I take all my Facebook photos down? Well, they have always only been accessible to my friends -- but I did remove a few photos and stories from my blog. I will not, however, take down all my stories and photos. Even though I am returning to the hospital and don't want to jeopardize my chances to do so, I feel certain that nothing I've posted is an invasion of someone's privacy.

Then again, maybe I am simply desensitized and part of the system myself.

Michelle May is a San Francisco-based relief worker, traveler and school psychologist. Follow her travels on her blog.

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February 26 2010

20:36

IOC Loosens Citizen Photog Restrictions, Launches Flickr Group

At the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics and the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, social media was in its infancy. But in Vancouver, it sometimes seems to overshadow the accredited media.

As expected, the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics are the first Games to truly be impacted by social media. As a result, one question leading up to the Games was whether the International Olympic Committee (IOC) would continue to exercise its restrictive policies regarding media coverage and copyright. Would these policies change when bloggers, amateur photographers and other members of the citizen media brigade made their voices heard in Vancouver? Or would the IOC clamp down and seek to silence the voice of the crowd?

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It seems the IOC is ready for a bit of change: It recently announced a Flickr Fan group. Slowly, the Olympics are changing to meet the new media world.

This is the second photo essay by Vancouver photographer Kris Krüg (view the first one here; read our Olympics coverage here). This time, he examines how social media is changing the Olympic Games.

Womens Hockey - Canada vs Slovakia - Canada Place - Vancouver
Winter Olympics

Only accredited photographers are allowed to shoot from the media sections inside the Olympic venues. Here, you see an accredited sports photographer, who has to abide by the IOC rules, with a Flickr sticker on his lens. It's great to see old school mixing with new school.

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