Monday, November 10, 2008

What's In a Hologram? Response to TIME magazine article "Whiteboards Out. Holograms In"

In TIME magazine article, "Whiteboards Out, Hollograms In," writer James Poniewozik addresses the re-illumination of election-night news and its anchors through their use of some rather off-the-wall, new technologies. The everyday news-viewing experience is often littered with plenty of techie gadgets, but the 2008 election saw some remarkable, occasionally overwhelming methods of providing (or, sort of providing) the news.

Poniewozik's thesis is driven in the line, "On the other hand, the election night also showcased how T.V. has successfully used technology to explain complicated subjects." Before this particular statement, he discusses "the special effects" of election night, such as "3-D graphics sprouted out of studio floors," and holograms, and seems to be asking, is all of this really necessary? In the aforementioned statement, he captures his thesis by taking in all of the information, and asking why it works or why it's a waste of time. His suggestion that the technology helps to explain complicated subjects is certainly true--at least, it is in my opinion. Though I took AP Government in high school, I am still shaky on the calculations that go in to the electoral college, and the issue of House/Senate seats and percentages confuses me beyond explanation. With the assistance of certain technologies, though, I am more easily able to comprehend this information. On CNN, for example, I was able to watch the anchor touch and color the Senate/House seats as the results came in. A 3-D image of the seats appeared on my T.V. screen and it was as easy as counting colored boxes in a line. Technology also allowed me to see the breakdown of city/county votes of every state in the United States. (After learning that my home state Virginia had gone blue-- I was able to see, within seconds, that my hometown had gone blue as well. This gave all the more reason to celebrate.)

As Poniewozik draws his article to a close, he acknowledges that we lived in a different world than the Tim Russerts, and Walter Cronkites did. Chalk boards and whiteboards have been phased out, and been replaced by newer, cleaner technology that offers three times the convenience and no hassle of markers that run out of ink. All that said, the election is now over, we have a new president-elect, but it's no easy time. We cannot pack up the holograms, shut off the computer screens, and tune out, but instead, must stay focused on the task at hand. This country needs healing in many ways: economically, socially, environmentally, and it's time that we turn our attention, energy and all of this amazing technology to get some real answers, and get to work.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

Our recent photography assignment has propelled the issue of pairing writing and photography to the forefront of  my mind. Somehow, despite the fact that I am a writing major, I have never seriously considered the role of photography as it pertains to written text. But where are we without images alongside our words? Would an expose be as effective if there weren't pictures of the starving children, or the storm survivors that are central to the piece? In my English senior seminar with Dr. Huntley, we just finished reading Jed Horne's Breach of Faith, a journalistic exploration of what happened in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. After reading, we viewed Spike Lee's documentary "When the Levees Broke" and have 
begun to delve into why these texts are so insightful when placed side-by-side.

In Breach of Faith, Horne strives to provide an objective and detailed account, including
personal accounts, meteorology, politics, and engineering, to highlight why and how the natural
disaster of a hurricane, either before it hit, while in the eye or in the aftermath, became unnatural.
Lee's documentary, while just as objective as Horne's text, seeks to achieve something vastly different.
The story of Lee's "requiem" lies in the voice and on the faces of Katrina's victims. When put together,
the viewer is given a complete pan of the disaster, how it grew to such a high caliber, and why it didn't
have to be that way. 

When comparing a written text to a piece of photography or film, I think the fundamental
question that needs to be asked is, what are the roles of investigative journalism, and documentary
film? Are their objectives that different? In the instance of these two texts, I find they share a subject
matter, but seek to effect their viewers/readers in different ways. There certain aspects of tragedy 
that are better told from the mouths and faces of the survivors, and other points that are 
explained more fully from a removed, strictly factual point of view.

Though my reading illuminated a lot of political, and socio-economic aspects of pre- and post-storm
Katrina, I preferred the connection I felt to "When the Levees Broke" due to visual stimulation. As I
watched men, women and children wade through chest-deep water, as I saw bits of the great city of
New Orleans float away, I was emotionally shaken to tears, anger, and guilt.

I realize that I am rambling, but I am just slowly learning that photography and film play a big role in the realm of writing. I am also realizing that in instances where images are unavailable or irrelevant, the written word must be strong enough to stand on its own. To create images so vivid that readers don't need a picture to imagine what the situation is like. I am looking forward to taking more photographs, letting my words tell the stories they cannot, and letting pictures bring my words to life.

You Can Find Me Skypin'

A few weekends ago, my best friend and I were complaining about missing one another, and never getting enough time to spend face-to-face. This is normal and quite frequent conversation for us. We can catch up by phone but distractions alway seem to pop up and interrupt our conversation. So, we decided to replace our usual complaining with action, and stumbled upon Skype. We are now addicted to Skype, a web-based software that allows us to see each other while we talk through internet calling. The thing I have discovered about Skype, especially its video feature, is that somehow it is easier for me to schedule a Skype session than to orchestrate a successful phone call.

Most members use Skype for its unlimited, free Skype-to-Skype calls, but it has many other features. Users can get great rates on national and international calls, text messages, voicemail, an online number and call forwarding. These allow users and their friends to contact each other anytime, anywhere. Skype is also great for businesses, because conference calls can become actual conferences where ideas can be transmitted in a simulated round-table discussion. Skype is offered in 28 languages and is used is nearly every country in the world. 

As I think about this web technology, I am reminded of today's group presentation on GrandCentral, because, as noted in the presentation, GrandCentral was already outdated when it was released. Skype, which was introduced in 2003, and others like it, have been offering similar if not better services for quite some time. 

I prefer the video-calling feature because I love to see the faces of the people I love. With Skype, my best friend can show me her new apartment, and she can see how big my dog has gotten. Though these things seem insignificant, they are important to me. I have been over 400 miles away from my friends and family for the past three years, and it's difficult for me accept that our daily lives have very little to do with one another. I am the first to acknowledge when a technology is extravagant or unnecessary, and I don't think Skype is one of these. It's hard enough to stay in touch with loved ones to then have to worry about ever-increasing phone rates. Instead, all we have to do is log on and we are instantly connected.