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 →
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 →
2010 was a robust year for explanatory content, both in and outside of journalism. But before we move ahead to what is sure to be an equally exciting 2011, let’s take a look back at some of the best explainers last year had to offer:
In light of the mammoth leak of diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks earlier this week, and the numerous new stories that have followed, we thought it’d be worth taking the time to zoom out, and find out who’s providing the necessary context (and explanation) to what some people are calling Cablegate. Continue Reading →
Today marks the announcement of a special partnership between NYU’s Studio 20 graduate journalism program and ProPublica to study, improve—and experiment with—the art of explanation in journalism.
Working closely with the editors at ProPublica and led by NYU professor Jay Rosen, Studio 20 will research best practices, produce model explainers based on ProPublica investigations and identify useful explanation tools and techniques, not only for the benefit of its partners, but for the journalism community at large.
“An explainer is a work of journalism, but it doesn’t provide the latest news or update you on a story,” Rosen says. “It addresses a gap in your understanding: the lack of essential background knowledge. We wanted to work with the journalists at ProPublica on this problem because they investigate complicated stories and teach what they’ve learned to other journalists. It seemed like a perfect match.”
Explainer.Net, which is edited by the Studio 20 team, also launches today. The site will highlight outstanding work in explanation, interview skilled practitioners and update interested audiences on the project’s progress. In addition to sharing what we’ve learned, we would like to hear from you to identify leaders, best practices and quality work in the field of explanation.
Explainers often have lofty goals in their subject matter, but we know that different people have different styles of learning. Explainers utilize many tools to break down complicated subjects beyond just a block of text, and we’ve collected eight of the best. Some of them are visual, interactive, or entertaining, but all of them help users easily digest intricate topics.
Infographics are visual representations of data. They can be as simple as a bar graph, or may contain complex interactive elements. In any case, infographics can render information that might seem esoteric in its raw form into something much easier to grasp. One great example is Naming Names, a visual chart of “he said, she said” political games that is visually pleasing, informative, and interactive. Whereas many infographics are merely supplements to larger stories, this manages to have its own unique narrative.
Whether you use After Effects, Flash, or good old paper and pencil, animation can be one of the most successful tools for visual explanation. Sometimes, the simpler the better, as is the case with CommonCraft, which uses basic stick figure drawings to describe a wide array of topics from “Saving for Retirement” to “Augmented Reality” in a way that is basic, direct, and most of all, elegant.
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