Friday, July 15, 2011

Yellow Journalism (and Red, Blue, Green, Purple....)

In many past and present homerooms, the traditional “Student of the Day” leads a brief talk about an interesting current event. These presentations, luckily, are no longer conscribed to zigzag clippings from local newspapers. A host of resources now help students explore global events and niche issues with equal depth.

One of our favorite sites is Newsmap. It offers a visual amalgamation of the most pressing and widely disseminated news stories. More intuitive than 10x10, another graphic news source, Newsmap represents headlines in a color-coded grid, revealing both popularity and relevance. The site conceptualizes the Google news aggregator in an updated, efficient, and attention-grabbing way. The choices can focus on the United States or expand to other countries. By registering, a viewer can customize the display. The dynamic format alone seizes the attention of our students, and a synopsis appears when hovering over each item. The shading within each color block corresponds to the time of the story, where lightest means “less than 10 minutes ago” and darkest means “more than 1 hour ago.”
Source: Newsmap
The gridding reminds us of customer segmentation models pioneered by business consulting firms to divide a consumer market into blocks of buyer profiles. In a market map, the size and positioning of a block is data-driven, informed by the number of consumers in that category and the qualities represented by that buyer. Newsmap works the same way, which offers a useful way in the classroom for teachers to connect media literacy lessons with their financial literacy curriculum.

Newsmap also helps reinforce several desired skills. For example, students learn to recognize size as significant. They see color-coding as indicating category and frequency, and they discern relationships between news stories by their proximity. On a higher level, they intuit the widespread reach of information, the number of media outlets for reporting, and what it means to “aggregate.” Soon, students can quickly skim the page to discern recency, relevance, and relationship.

Newsmap is the brainchild of Marcos Weskamp, currently head of design at Flipboard, the popular iPad news browser named App of the Year for 2010 and one of Time Magazine’s top 50 innovations of 2010. Fast Company named Weskamp among the 100 most creative people in business for 2011, and he is a past contributor to Visual Complexity. Weskamp has experimented with Flickr Graph, to visualize the social relationships inside Flicker.com, and Social Circles, to reveal the networks beneath mailing lists. His rational for creating Newsmap reads like a quote right out of our own ASIDE playbook:
“Many of us are working in an information-soaked world. There is too much of everything. We are subject everywhere to a sensory overload of images, bombarded with information; in magazines and advertisements, on TV, radio, in the cityscape. The internet is a wonderful communication tool, but day after day we find ourselves constantly dealing with information overload. Today, the internet presents a new challenge, the wide and unregulated distribution of information requires new visual paradigms to organize, simplify and analyze large amounts of data. New user interface challenges are arising to deal with all that overwhelming quantity of information.”

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