Gone Meta

Jeff MacPherson and crew went meta. Care to go meta too?
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Data Visualization and Energy

Gapminder - GapCast #10 - Energy

Wow. Just... Just Wow.
I don't tend to be quantitative-oriented but this is just too convincing, too telling not to flabbergast me.
Apparently, there's a Google Spreadsheet tool which can help in making something similar. I'll definitely have to look into it. Would be the ultimate teaching tool, for those situations where statistics make some sense.


Self-Aware Journalists

Why is it that journalists have such a hard time looking at journalism with a fresh perspective?
Relatively recent case in point:
Open Source - Blog Archive - London: The News about the News
I guess I know some answers to that question. I just shouldn't be surprised. But with journalists becoming increasingly self-aware (and, in a very literal sense, "self-centered"), I wish there could be more cluefulness in journalism now than there has been in the early 1990s when online communications (Usenet, email, Web) should have woken journalists up.
For the record: I don't have anything against journalists. I just wish journalism itself would change. "For good."


Learning Interviews

As an ethnographer, I care a fair bit about interviewing techniques and styles. Not that interviews are the only method we use. We do participant-observation, preliminary research, quantitative analysis, genealogy... But skills at conducting open-ended interviews come in handy in ethnographic disciplines.

It then follows that I enjoy finding examples of effective and ineffective interviewing. Typically, interviews in mainstream media (MSM) contain useful material on what not to do in an interview.

This is exactly what I consider yesterday's Lacy-Zuckerberg "keynote" to be: an example of what should be avoided at all costs while doing an insightful interview. Not so bad if all you want to do is dig dirt. But abysmal in terms of insight.

Apparently, jscholars and media experts agree about the value of the Lacy-Zuck fiasco for learning moments:

Even though I'm local to SXSW, I wasn't at the keynote (I don't have a SXSWi badge). I mostly looked at live reactions after they had been posted and briefly discussed the session with someone who did attend. I'm still trying to make sense of what happened which is a bit difficult in the fickleness of media ("geek" or mainstream).

Some of the most impactful live reactions were posted on Twitter, with Robert Scoble as a central figure. Some of those reactions were rather harsh, even insulting. Given my cynicism toward MSM, I assumed that part of those reactions were exacerbated by the situation. And while I now think that the interview was even more inappropriate than I thought it had been, I still think part of the groaning was self-generated. After all, it's not like MSM weren't already filled with I-Show self-congratulatory interviews.

To be honest (and I can certainly be wrong): my guess is that what started as relatively mild disappointment at the way the interview was going transformed into audible/visible reactions as well as "tweets" (text updates on Twitter), which then caused a sort of feedback loop. Those who weren't twittering at the point might still have reacted audibly and/or visibly. Since, as human beings, we're quite clueful in terms of people's paralanguage ("body language"), this scenario doesn't sound as absurd as some attendees might assume.

In fact, people keep mentioning Sarah Lacy's paralanguage (including proxemics and kinesics), which makes me suspect that the communication break may have spilled over from non-linguistic clues.

I sure hope the Language Log gang will pick this story up as it can make for a very interesting discussion among language scientists. Should probably send something to the Linguistic Anthropology blog.

The paralinguistic dimension reminds me of the history of televised debates, especially the Nixon-Kennedy case. Haven't seen the Zuckerberg-Lacy transcript yet but it does sound like the verbal component of the interview was less problematic than the aural and visual dimensions. Maybe I'm too much of a fan of orality, but I'm looking forward to reading the complete transcript. And watching the complete video.

Interestingly, Lacy herself seems to focus on the "written" content, in response to the controversy. Quite clear in this video, even more so in her twittered reply. Both the video and the tweet are already (in)famous. Hopefully they can help people take a step back and look at the situation as a whole. The authority/legitimacy/jschool-cred angles are easy to follow. And the "in my book" comment is too funny in context to pass up (Lacy kept promoting her hardcopy book). The "high profile" comment is very intriguing. Maybe Lacy expected something more out of "South-by" than a chance to "moderate a keynote" in front of highly-involved participants.

Ah, well...

My motto remains: "Don't get angry. Get a Clue!"

Hadn't realized until just now that Sarah Lacy was the same journalist who wrote about her sour grapes over the TED conference. That one was another story I found interesting, especially in terms of the geek niche. Lacy, and others, seem to worry about "geek fame." Reactions to her "Zuck" interview seem to imply she's easily star-struck.

Which brings us to gender. Many people, including or even especially women, are referring to Lacy as a ditz. Many talk about her Valley Girl speech (part paralanguage, of course). Not to mention that her BusinessWeek column is called Valley Girl. Plus, the apparently-flirtatious behavior is clearly gendered. Not that her gender was the root cause of the fiasco. But the fiasco has an obvious gender dimension. A man acting the same way would probably not have fared much better but the reactions would have been quite different. Not kinder, just different.

The "mob mentality" and "flashmob" aspects can also lead to insight into geek culture. In simple terms, this is what anybody would call a "tough crowd." "Lions in the arena" sounds like a fitting analogy. Was Lacy an amazone? Clearly, there are parallels to make with Michelle Madigan at DefCon. In that situation, a self-assured MSM journalist was shunned from a hacker conference for failing to play by the rules set by the audience. Sarah Lacy is being burnt partly because she failed to play to her audience.

The larger lesson is: context is key.


Sarah Lacy's Attempt at Recovering, and Reactions

Lacy Responds to Zuckerberg Keynote Disaster

Sarah Lacy Speaks.

(and dances?)

Lots to learn from this whole event.

A SXSWi Fiasco in 6 Comic Panels

See also:
BuzzMachine - Blog Archive - Zuckerberg interview: What went wrong