Bobby Schweizer is a researcher for Georgia Tech’s Newsgames Project, which is currently developing a newsgame authoring tool for local newsrooms, codenamed The Cartoonist, in conjunction with the University of California, Santa Cruz and the Knight Foundation. Schweizer is also the co-author of Newsgames: Journalism at Play with Dr. Ian Bogost and Simon Ferrari. He chatted to Explainer.Net’s Niel Bekker about the challenge of making newsgames an accessible medium for regular journalists. Continue Reading →
About NielNiel Bekker writes about games & media. He graduates in December 2011 from NYU's Studio 20 master's program in journalism.
As part of our research on explanatory journalism, we’re interviewing experts in fields outside journalism about their approaches to explaining complex systems to non-specialtists.
Our first expert is cognitive linguist George Lakoff, who did groundbreaking research on the embodiment of thought and language and the way people think using metaphors. For Lakoff, language is not a neutral system of communication, because it is always based on frames, conceptual metaphors, narratives, and emotions. Political thought and language is inherently moral and emotional. The basic phrases journalists use every day—words like “liberty” “freedom” “immigrant” “taxes”— are essentially contested concepts that have radically different meanings for different Americans. Continue Reading →
We have news here at Explainer.net. We’re announcing a new, expanded collaboration today, and it’s international in scope. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation will be working in parallel with NYU and ProPublica as we all try to advance the art and science of the journalistic explainer. The ABC will be doing its own explainers and experimenting with new tools as we do the same on our side of the world. The hope is that can we all learn more that way. The ABC will then share what it comes up with here at Explainer.net.
To keep transaction costs low, the American partners and the Australians will work independently, but on the same puzzles during the same time period: January through May, 2011.
The idea for this approach began in August, 2010 after Jay Rosen gave a presentation to the ABC staff on “the future of context.” Abigail Thomas, Head of Strategic Development for ABC Innovation and Sam Doust, Creative Director, said that they had been thinking along similar lines. Here is Sam Doust’s note, with some additional details.
Like many media organisations the ABC is interested in refining the art and practice of communicating context and explanation in online journalism, now more than ever. We hope that through Explainer.net we can share what we learn with a broader community.
Explanatory journalism can take many forms, from bullet-point lists of text to diagrams and timelines, to complex data visualisations. We’re specifically interested in understanding better what approaches are appropriate to which stories.
We’re also producing tool sets and editors to help journalists create explainers on their own. As an example, we’re just finishing an editor that publishes time-based, sequential information in dual formats: a card timeline, as seen here, as well as a depth-based “road” view of events as seen here. In this tool the same editor and information are used across both output formats.
As well as building tools for journalists, we’re pursuing stories to showcase different formats of explainers and will post at Explainer.net. analysis of our process and success with these.
As an example: One of the major issues in the last Australian election–some even say a decisive one–was the proposal to build a national broadband system. Doust said the ABC will probably experiment with how to clearly explain that project, which would affect virtually everyone in the country.
In a field full of complex, technical issues, a whole bunch of jargon and an endless amount of context, scientists have a lot of explaining to do. More and more scientists and science writers are taking these explanations to the blogosphere. The number of science bloggers has grown so quickly in the past five years that a collection of blogging networks and aggregators have emerged to keep track of them all. An influential leader of the science blogging community – and certainly one of its most prolific – is a man called Bora Zivkovic.
“Blogfather Bora”, as some call him, is a scientist by training but a blog and Twitter enthusiast by nature. He is the editor of Scientific American’s blog network, as well as series editor of The Open Laboratory, an annual collection of the best writing from science blogs. For the past five years he has organized the ScienceOnline “unconference,” an intense three-day meet up where scientists, students, and writers share ideas about the changing world of science and the web.
Bora, still reeling from the excitement of the most recent ScienceOnline meeting held over the weekend, agreed to answer a few questions about science blogging and the art of explanation. Continue Reading →
Probably the last place you would expect to see a slick explainer of the financial crisis and bailout is at the end of a Will Ferrell movie. But that’s exactly what you get if you watch his latest comedy caper with Mark Wahlberg, The Other Guys.
Produced by Picture Mill, the end sequence is a witty summary of every unsavory detail we’ve learned about AIG, Bernie Madoff and the other villains of the recent financial meltdown. Although made for larger screens, it reminds us of other animated, infographic explainers that have become popular on the web. Continue Reading →
Happy holidays, everyone!
Today, we are sharing an informative Christmas explainer by the Slate, published in 2008. While not as exhaustive as say, Wikipedia’s entry for Christmas, this Q&A feature does address some of our most burning questions about this time of year, such as: how do I become Santa? Continue Reading →
We recently looked at some of the best answers to the public’s questions about WikiLeaks. Boing Boing has published another excellent explainer that we missed, WikiWecaps, focusing specifically on WikiLeaks’ leak of classified US diplomatic cables. The video is intended to be the first in a series of WikiLeaks explainers. Continue Reading →
With millions of their passwords stolen, Gawker users are understandably concerned about what further consequences might arise from the hack, and whether their accounts with other websites & services are likely to be affected.
The New York Times recently produced an interactive feature that puts the most pressing challenge of American politics – balancing the budget – in your hands. Structured like a game, the interactive feature lets users reach the estimated $1.345 trillion required to balance the budget by 2030.
Simple, but effective, we’ve since learned that this half-game, half-explainer was easy to produce once the in-depth reporting had been done, thanks to 1000 Words. Also see Times reporter David Leonhardt’s column on the story. Continue Reading →
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