Computer information and journalism converge for future
Published: Monday, April 30, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 14:05
In his recent white paper to CUNY Graduate School of Journalism titled, “Cultivating the Landscape of Innovation in Computational Journalism,” Computer Science Ph.D. Nicholas Diakopoulos has developed a new structural approach for innovation in journalism in the hands of information technology.
Journalism has come a long way since Gutenberg perfected the printing press and continues to undergo remarkable changes through the use of information technology. Indeed, traditional means of news media in the form of TV, newspapers, magazines and radio are rapidly moving into the digital age as consumer needs and values are changing.
Media outlets everywhere are diversifying in their offerings through new elements that help bolster the appearance and scope of their news articles in terms of text, images, graphics, video, audio, social media and more.
As an undergraduate at Brown University, Diakopoulos first became interested in human-computer interaction for computational media applications.
“This relates to multimedia signal processing, in which computers make sense of media like audio, photos, or video,” Diakopoulos said.
“In the first year of my Ph.D. coursework at Georgia Tech I got really into a course on information visualization, which approached visualization from the perspective of human-computer interaction (HCI),” Diakopoulos said. “Since then, my interests have danced between these worlds of making sense of media and figuring out how to enable people to have meaningful interactions and experiences through computationally enhanced media.”
In early 2006 at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Diakopoulos and his dissertation advisor, Irfan Essa, came up with the concept of ‘Computational Journalism.’ “We decided there was a lot more to learn about the intersection of these disciplines and so I set to fleshing out what ‘Computational Journalism’ meant by designing a course that I co-taught in early 2007 on the topic,” said Diakopoulos. “In 2008 we organized a Symposium to jumpstart the transfer of ideas between journalism practitioners and computing technologists, which aroused great interest and was a success!”
It is no surprise that computer information technology is changing and enhancing the news gathering process in a positive direction in terms of innovation and creativity. There are many new ways in which computing technology can enable newsgathering.
Diakopoulos commented on what he can see as a very viable future technology for information gathering: “Sensor networks and robotics are two other areas that I expect will have an impact on how journalistic information is gathered. While robotics is still a bit over the horizon, sensor platforms are getting cheap enough that you could imagine a news organization sprinkling hundreds or thousands of these sensors throughout a city to collect data about everything from noise, to pollution, or even radiation levels!”
Diakopoulos’ white paper puts forth the idea that “there may be opportunities for computational innovation in journalism that have been overlooked or are underexplored.” Therefore, Diakopoulos has met with industry practitioners and has initiated brainstorming sessions with students at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism with much success.
Some of the ingenious ideas proposed include: Allow witnesses to build crime re-enactments via an avatar system or 3D world; The gamification of identifying whether an image has been photoshopped or altered; A simulation to convey how a product was made (e.g. was it ethically sourced?); A platform for people to upload photos and videos and let them mix and match their interpretations of a real event; A mobile app that alerts volunteers or citizen journalists when an incident or news event takes place near their location.
The future of journalism and information technology remains to be determined, however, expert and researcher Nicholas Diakopoulos is helping us understand the direction journalism and information technology will take by asking relevant questions, such as, what does journalism value and how do these values influence the goals of the activity?
“We are still at the beginning of figuring out how to communicate effectively through computers,” said Diakopoulos.
Nicholas summed up his goal for the integration of information technology and journalism, “There are a huge number of opportunities to think about, new story forms and ways to present information, new tools to help journalists gather and make sense of information, and new ways to optimize the dissemination of that information. At the same time, I think technology needs to complement (not supplement) human efforts; we cannot forget the human elements of improvisation and empathy that keep journalism nimble and engaging.”
Information technology is overriding print media insofar as published material, and it will be fascinating to see how its convergence with journalism will evolve in the upcoming years.