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It’s the singularity, stupid!

Ray Kurzweil, Photo TED

Ray Kurzweil, Photo TED

Ray Kurzweil’s talk at a recent TED convention makes compulsive viewing for anyone interested in how information technology could shape our world. Anyone unfamiliar with Kurzweil’s work would do well to pick up “The Singularity is Near“. It’s a door-stopper of a book so let me offer a potted summary that does it no justice at all: Non-biological intelligence (i.e. computers) is getting smarter. Sometime this century it will surpass biological intelligence (i.e. human beings). Should we be afraid? Not really. Much good will come of the singularity if we are wise to the challenges it brings.

I myself will be watching Terminator Salvation this weekend.

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Global Media Forum Day 3: Serious Games

GMF public in the plenary hall / photo: Cristina Viehmann, ISN

GMF public in the plenary hall / photo: Cristina Viehmann, ISN

Ever since the earliest of ages, the human being has been a player. The Dutch historian Johan Huizinga knew what he was writing when he entitled his 1938 book “Homo Ludens“.

Huizinga defines the conceptual space in which play occurs. And some of the serious games today create the virtual universe in which conflicts occur.

There is nothing you cannot make a game about. What is a game, after all? To create a game, you just need a topic and a virtual universe. You then put people in it and assign them tasks.

Combining virtual experiences with the act of reporting games can be a way of representation. Take Dafur is Dying as an example. And yes, Darfur is a special case because coverage is there, but we do not know why so very little has happened.

When it comes to serious conflict gaming, a big question remains open: How do we deal with the exposure offered by such interactive games?
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Global Media Forum Day 2: What is InJo?

GMF opening address by Director-General of Deutsche Welle Erik Bettermann / photo: Cristina Viehmann, ISN

GMF opening address by Director-General of Deutsche Welle Erik Bettermann / photo: Cristina Viehmann, ISN

Innovation Journalism” (InJo) – the word combination does not yield any Google search results before 2002.

The term was truly – and academically – introduced in 2003 by Stanford Professor David Nordfors, his main point being that journalism and innovation are each other’s driving forces.

Today at the GMF workshop offered by Stanford University, we took the concept of  “Innovation Journalism” apart.

How do we define journalism?

If you have a look at the Oxford definition of the word “journalist”, you find the message defined by the medium: newspapers, magazines, radio and TV. By offering such a definition we are bringing Marshall McLuhan back in, and we don’t necessarily want to do that. Strangely enough for our perception, the word “internet” does not appear in the Oxford definition.

Today’s medium is separated from the message, i.e. the content. A new definition of a journalist should refrain from this occupation’s relation with a medium and focus on the audience, Nordfors says. Journalism is all about offering issues of public interest to the broader audience.

And what do we mean by innovation?

Innovation is more than inventing. It’s the process of creating and delivering new value. As defined by Nordfors, innovation stops being exclusive and elitist. For him, innovation is a “language thing,” not a “tech thing.” It’s mostly about language, Nordfors argues, because any new product needs a name, a definition, a business model and a narrative. And all these things are made of pure words.

Innovation and journalism – the missing link

Innovation journalism can be understood in two ways: It’s journalism that covers innovation; but it can also mean journalism that is innovative.

Why is it important for journalists to cover innovation?

To answer this question, Nordfors builds a bridge between democracy and innovation. Democracy implements ideas in society, innovation plants ideas on the market. In the end, innovation also plays an important public role in shaping societal behavior. To exemplify this latter thought: the iPod is deciding how we will relate to music in the future. It’s not parliaments that decide that. The link between democracy, innovation and journalism is that journalism, according to Nordfors, is key for connecting the innovation economy with the democratic society.

And what is innovation in journalism?

To picture this, think of a refurbished newsroom. Traditional newsrooms use strict categories such as science, technology, business, politics and culture. Now, how would you categorize a story, appropriate to postmodern times, relating simultaneously to particle accelerators and modern ballet? Would such a story actually exist?The point is: innovative journalism should write such stories. Journalism crossing categories is innovative.

The ISN at this year’s Global Media Forum

Global Media Forum Banner

Bonn is hosting the second Global Media Forum (GMF), 3-5 June, organized by Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster.

The forum addresses conflict prevention in the multimedia age, with the main topics including media freedom, media in Africa and the challenges posed by new technologies.

Read all about it, as the Deutsche Welle has recently launched the GMF blog. The conference organizers are also on Twitter @DW_GMF. Photo material will be available on the Deutsche Welle Flickr page.

As for us, we will be at the GMF in Bonn this year. Stay tuned for our liveblogging from the GMF and for our conference daily tweets (@cviehmann on Twitter).

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