The next miracle (v11.1): Owen Youngman

Knight Professor of Digital Media Strategy, Medill / Northwestern

Owen YoungmanOwen YoungmanOwen Youngman

It’s a soda machine. No, it’s a headline service!

Technology has not always marched inexorably and inevitably forward. For example, to stand in the Pantheon in Rome and gaze upward at its 142-foot-high dome (circa A.D. 126) is to be reminded that, once Rome fell, the required technology for awe-inspiring domes essentially could not be duplicated by what remained of “Western civilization” for roughly a thousand years. (In the 15th Century would ultimately come Brunelleschi’s cathedral dome in Florence and Michelangelo’s for St. Peter’s Basilica, both of which Linda and I also saw on our trip to Milan, Venice, Florence, Siena, and Rome last month.)

Owen meets the GestureCooler

Give me where to stand, and I will move the news …

I would submit that another pertinent example of my opening point, also arising from my recent travels, might be the gesture-controlled Pepsi machine I encountered at a convenience store while taking a motorcoach from Lake Como to Venice.

You say you’re excited by the prospect of using the Leap Motion Controller to play games on your laptop? You say you have always dreamed of feeling like Mickey Mouse in the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” segment of “Fantasia”? You say you want to have people stare at you even when you’re not wearing Google Glass?

Well then, meet the GestureCooler from Prosa, a magical contraption that will interpret your hand signals, take your picture, give you news headlines and the weather forecast, connect you to Facebook, and maybe even sell you a soft drink. Continue reading

Radio (or, more properly, audio) days

Chicago Tribune famous front page drinking glasses

75 years of headlines on a single bookshelf, including two versions of GREAT WAR ENDS

Last week I popped down to WBEZ (or do you say Chicago Public Media?) at the invitation of my former colleague Rick Kogan and his producer, my former Medill grad student Katie O’Brien. The purpose: to appear on “Afternoon Shift,” the program that Rick has begun hosting since Steve Edwards left to take a position at the University of Chicago’s new Institute of Politics, or as folks are wont to call it, “David Axelrod’s new thing.” (Rick’s also still at the Tribune, and it’s also worthwhile to troll chicagotribune.com to find him.)

Anyway, Kogan’s opening essay about his long involvement with and regard for newspapers is pretty evocative, and as you can see it put me in mind of the two sets of Tribune headline drinking glasses I have sitting on one of my bookshelves at Medill. The essay is followed by a three-way discussion among him, Katie, and me that tries to ask and answer questions like, Why journalism? and Why journalism for you, Katie? WBEZ.org called it “The Future of Facts.”

Chicago Public Media is using several different platforms for putting its archival material online, and here are two:

  • A Storify collection of tweets and links that includes pointers to all of the individual segments of the program. One swell feature is that it appears you can add comments to the audio track at any given point along the audio stream, though I haven’t tried it.
  • An audio link on SoundCloud that takes you to a fairly straightforward interface. Continue reading

What I learned on my (early) summer vacation

Top ten lessons from a 13-day trip in the early summer of 2012: Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blindingly obvious given that this is the start of my fourth decade at an Apple keyboard of one sort or another…

10. As long as there’s no need to check versioning and edit/commenting trails in a Word document, or to create 8-stage builds in Keynote that rely on carefully masked images, an iPad is all the computer a person needs for travel.
9. Particularly if that iPad has a Logitech cover that doubles as a Bluetooth keyboard.
8. If all the materials, agendas, resolutions, and ancillary documents for a multiple-day board meeting can be retrieved as a PDF in iBooks on one’s iPad, a dramatic decrease in the risk of rogue meeting-room power cords ensues.
7. The trickiest thing about reading an e-book is learning not to advance the page too quickly.
6. The Chicago Tribune digital e-edition is a fine substitute for the printed paper when a person leaves the distribution area.
5. As long as there is a Starbucks nearby, a person never leaves the distribution area of the New York Times or Wall Street Journal.
4. As long as there is a New York Times or Wall Street Journal within driving distance, there is never a need to turn on a television set.
3. One size of update will not fit all 1,500 of one’s Facebook friends.
2. 90-plus degrees Fahrenheit in the Central Valley of California is nothing like 90-plus degrees Fahrenheit on the shores of Lake Michigan.
And the No. 1 lesson from a 13-day trip during 2012:
1. One voicemail message and fewer than 5 telephone calls across two phone lines over 13 days would seem to indicate that no matter how important the news, intentionally asynchronous communication is forever where it’s at.
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