Monday, July 19, 2010

Interactive Journalism Tools ?

As a devoted McLuhanite, one would think that I would be prevented from falling into the trap of rear view mirror thinking, right ? But the goblins of technology will mesmerize and trick you time and time again. Never think you're safe from being fooled.

How was I fooled this latest time ? Well, my thinking about the future of new media, and how it can be used as an engine to drive public discussion has always referred to text, video and images... because those bits of content have been the building blocks of expressing an idea for a long time now. On this blog and elsewhere I talk about stories versus graphs with explanations. Sometimes I have considered interactive graphs, but haven't considered rich interactive tools.

But this is no longer the case.

The Washington Post Article on Top Secrecy in America provides an interactive application, a scrollable map, search engine, articles and intro video on one page. Will such a website eventually replace what today we call the 'news story' ?

Interactive media are the grown-up descendant of video games, and great-great-grand child perhaps of toys. And they can express things in ways that static content can not: by allowing the user to enter a model of what is being described, rather than view a diagram, or read a description; by showing motion (of money, or information for example) ; by showing complicated relationships such as many-to-many relationships between entities. We saw this latter example in the recent UK Gov interactive application that showed relationships between political contributions and contracts.

The possibilities for a new model raise other questions: who will be the audience for such tools ? will such tools be able to provide long views of how the modeled entity (government, for example) operates or will these be one-off toys ?

Keep watching the skies.

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